God’s Word for You
James 3:16-18 Harvest of righteousness
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 10, 2020
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every bad practice.
Our coach James explains what happens when (bitter) envy and selfish ambition rule a man’s life. He will leave nothing behind him but disorder and “every bad practice.” “Bad” here is phaulos, the word Jesus uses when he says, “Everyone who does evil (phaula) hates the light” (John 3:20), and in his description of the resurrection on the Last Day, “Those who have done evil (phaula) will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29). When a man sets his own opinion and desires above God’s will and God’s desire for humanity, that man has become God’s enemy. Because his sin involves ambition, his leadership will lead other people astray, and his sin will be punished in the great condemnation all the more severely. When we suffer because of such people, we pray, “Have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant” (Psalm 123:3-4).
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Pure in this case means holy wisdom; chaste and innocent. True Christian faith is called “the fear of the Lord, pure, enduring forever” (Psalm 19:9). Human purity is only possible through faith in Christ.
Being peaceful is all about God’s peace, a gift that comes to us through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Peace from God means an end to sinful man’s natural resistance to God; our warfare with God. It is the peace that comes from hearing the gospel that our sin has been paid for (Isaiah 40:2).
What can it mean to be gentle except to be like the woman Moses says is “so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot” (Deuteronomy 28:56)? Jesus described gentleness in terms of his own relationship with sinners: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:29). His gentleness means complete forgiveness and peace. We deserved punishment, the punishment Jesus received for our sins, but by taking it all on himself, he has left us with nothing but serenity, joy, release, and pardon.
“Reasonable” is a word (eupeithes) that could also mean “submissive” (NIV). The idea is that the ‘reasonable’ person is open to changing his mind based on the word of God. The very powerful and the very stupid would rather change the facts to fit their views. The true Christian is willing to change his views to fit the facts of God’s Holy Word. The person who tries to change Christian doctrine because of the latest findings or theories of human science must beware: Science is constantly changing its mind because of new and wildly divergent theories, so that even mathematics is not even held up as a paragon of the truth anymore. Only in the Holy Scriptures is there enduring and unchanging truth.
To be full of mercy is to be a fountain as well as a receptacle. Even as we are filled with God’s mercy, so also we should pour out his mercy. Jesus taught this with an excellent parable (Matthew 18:23-35). Can I ever show as much mercy to my fellow man as God has shown to me? “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Good fruit is God’s way of describing what we produce for him. He wants us to bear good fruit “in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). Since he is the one who gives us our talents and abilities, the good works we’re capable of are always in God’s mind. He knows what we might be able to do for him, and when we serve him, he is pleased with us. The widow with nothing but her little coin, the elderly gentleman who isn’t as quick as he used to be, the simple man who works hard with his hands, all serve God with the means he has given to them. We are all capable of bearing good fruit. James the coach adds a little reminder that we should strive to do more whenever possible by using the rare plural, “good fruits.”
The Greek word for “impartial” can also mean undivided or unwavering. I don’t think we need to make a choice between them here. Someone with Godly wisdom, the wisdom from above, would not want to cause divisions (Titus 3:10; Romans 16:17) and would not want to show any favoritism. God warns against favoritism toward the rich (Leviticus 19:15) and toward the poor (Exodus 23:3). The Lord seeks those who deal honestly and who seek the truth (Jeremiah 5:1).
To be sincere is to have a genuine faith that isn’t a sham or a pretense. God warned Daniel in a prophecy about many insincere people who would infiltrate the church through intrigue in the future (Daniel 11:21, 11:34). Paul warned the Corinthians, as well: “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by peacemakers.
There isn’t really any difference between James’ poieo eirene “peace makers” and Jesus’ eirenopoios “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Peace in the Holy Scriptures can mean (a) a feeling of peace and rest (Job 3:26), (b) peace as the end of war or hatred in man (as when defeated nations made peace with King David, 1 Chronicles 19:19), (c) peace through reconciliation in Christ (“the gospel of peace through Jesus,” Acts 10:36), or (d) Everlasting peace in heaven, which has its effects in common with (c). Isaiah said, “The product of righteousness will be peace, and righteousness will bring tranquility and security forever” (Isaiah 32:17). Whatever disquiet, grief, or loss we suffer, we have true peace now and forever through Christ.
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then you will better know his love, his heart,
Who come to soothe your sorrows and your fears,
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
From his own fullness all he takes away. (Christian Worship 415:3)
Pastor Timothy Smith