The wisdom of God and men
Mar 28, 2012
Most of the third chapter of James is directed at teachers, particularly Bible teachers. Obviously, all men can profit by the same instructions, but Bible teachers are held more accountable before God than their students.
Religious teachers throughout the world have been known for their fiery rhetoric, designed to stir the passions of the people and motivate them to hate opponents or "sinners." Such teachers work to motivate carnal minds into action or reaction to promote their religious view; but this can be vastly different from promoting the Kingdom of God, even if the people do not see the difference.
Recall that under Moses, the people rejected the Sword of the Spirit that God offered to them at Mount Sinai. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17), and the people refused to hear the Law in Exodus 20:18-21. David later lamented about this in Psalm 95:7-11, saying, "Today if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."
This Sword of the Spirit was supposed to be their weapon in their conquest of Canaan, and in rejecting this Sword, they were left only with a physical sword. Thus, their conquest of Canaan was brutal, not at all according to the heart of God, and it is seen in stark contrast to the Sword given many years later to the disciples at Pentecost. The disciples conquered by the power of the Spirit and broke down all strongholds one by one. The fiery sword coming from their mouths killed the flesh and burned up the works of darkness, but it was accomplished by Love and by all the fruit of the Spirit.
This is one of the greatest differences between the Old and New Covenants. Because the Israelites under Moses had refused to hear God's voice (word), they were not equipped properly to establish the Kingdom. They could establish only a prophetic type and not the real deal.
Because many Bible teachers do not comprehend this difference, they tend to use Old Covenant methods of establishing the Kingdom. They are using the wrong model, a model that ended in captivity. It failed then and cannot succeed today. Jewish Zionists have used this same model against the modern Palestinians, seeking to expel them or kill them all. We might expect this from a religion that is based upon the Old Covenant model, but Christian Zionists have little excuse for supporting it.
When Bible teachers use the Old Covenant as its model, the teaching is highly destructive and displeasing to God. The carnal tongue of such teachers merely inflames the unlearned to set the world on fire, as James would say. Such teaching is without godly wisdom and understanding, and its fruit is evident to all.
So James continues in 3:13,
(13) Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
Here is the contrast to the carnality of violent men, who try to take the kingdom by force (Matt. 11:12). Jesus said that such violence was the pattern all the way to John the Baptist, who himself was subjected to a violent death at the hands of violent men. And because John was so treated, Jesus too would be treated in the same manner by men of carnal minds.
James, too, would soon become the victim of the same treatment at the hands of religious but carnal men in the temple.
Although much of Christianity later adopted the same violent methods of converting the heathen, it was not done at the command of Jesus Christ or any of His disciples. It was decreed by religious leaders who had little or no understanding, wisdom, or knowledge of the mind of God.
Out of that same carnal religious mindset comes every other form of bad behavior. James continues, saying,
(14) But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. (15) This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. (16) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
This is the second time James uses the term pikros, "bitter." The first time was in verse 11, speaking about the "bitter water" that comes from the heart of bitterness. Heart bitterness is the source of "jealousy and selfish ambition," for it is the source or root of the carnal mind itself. It was the chief problem of Esau-Edom, whose "root of bitterness" not only caused him to despise the Birthright, but also to seek its blessings apart from its responsibilities (Heb. 12:15-17).
For this reason, one of the first lessons that God taught Israel in the wilderness was that the Cross is designed to remove the bitterness from the heart. God led them to Marah, the place of bitter waters, in Exodus 15, and then showed them a "tree" which, when cast into the water, made the waters sweet. This was their first great lesson after crossing the Red Sea, because it is so foundational to spiritual growth.
Esau-Edom was extremely bitter over losing the Birthright, for he could not hear (or accept) the word of God given to Sarah before the children were even born. Gen. 25:23 says, "the older shall serve the younger," indicating that it was the divine plan that Esau would serve Jacob.
Carnally-minded men are not the ones that God has chosen to rule the Kingdom. Yet they are the ones who are most ambitious. They usually appear to succeed for a time, but in the end they cannot defeat the sovereignty of God or overrule His decrees. That is the point when the true nature of their hearts are manifest, for they become bitter over what they believe to be their "divine right."
It is this selfish ambition that James recognizes as being "earthly, natural, demonic." All arrogance is based upon a lie, for it does not see the world as God sees it. It lies against the truth, James says. Worse yet, it believes its own lie and accuses God of falsehood or injustice. Such is the nature of heart bitterness, and it results in "disorder and every evil thing."
The Greek word for "disorder" is akatastasia, which refers to a state of disorder or sedition and revolt. Applied to the Kingdom, it refers to those who have revolted against Jesus Christ and His methods of establishing the Kingdom. There were many men over the centuries who claimed to be the messiah, but most of them, if not all, followed the path of sedition and revolt, because they believed that a successful revolt would prove their claim.
James understood this well, because he lived in Jerusalem, known for its seditions.
(17) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
God's wisdom is peaceable, not seditious. It is gentle, not harsh and violent. It is reasonable (compliant, agreeable), not argumentative or disagreeable. It is full of mercy, not judgmental or looking for reasons to find fault.
The contrast between the wisdom of God and the so-called wisdom of men is obvious. The wisdom of men cannot succeed apart from violence and injustice. The wisdom of God seldom sees immediate success, but in the long run it is invincible.
(18) And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Jesus, too, said in Matt. 5:9,
(9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
It is strange how so many warmongers claim that they are sons of God. In the end we all do the works of our father (John 8:41). Our father is evident to everyone, it seems, except ourselves.
Dr. Stephen Jones