If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
This week we considered what we mean by "a good life" and the role that wisdom plays in that life.
Discussion Questions for Small Groups
- What do you think of when you hear the expression “the good life?” What have others described to you as their vision of “the good life?”
- Are you convinced that God’s wisdom in Jesus, His kingdom vision of shalom, is truly “the good life?” Why or why not?
- What may cause doubt in us or in those outside the Church?
- How does James’ message address our doubts about whether Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s wisdom?
- James 3:13 suggests that to live in God’s wisdom results in an “honourable” life (literally “praiseworthy”). Who have you encountered that inspired you because they were living according to God’s wisdom? (Perhaps a person you’ve actually met, or one whose story you know from a biography or history.)
- Scot McKnight summarizes James’ (and the whole of scripture’s) approach to wisdom: “The wise person lives in God’s world, in God’s way, with God’s people, and so enjoys the blessing of the only wise God.” What specific verses from James come to mind that connect with this summary?
- James believes God wants His people to become a community of wisdom, which is why chapter 3 focuses on how to discern who is a true teacher. James gives us a discernment tool by listing the fruit of earthly (3:14-16) versus heavenly (3:17-18) wisdom.
- Have you ever experienced a church situation which was exhibiting the fruit of earthly wisdom? How was that situation handled? What did you learn?
- Which of the fruits of heavenly wisdom do you most desire in your life right now (pure, peace-loving, gentle, teachable, merciful, good deeds, not showing favouritism, sincere)? Take time to ask God to produce your desired fruit as a group.
- James 3:18 is another of James’ summary statements on “the good life.” What does “sowing seeds of peace” and “reaping a harvest of righteousness” actually look like today? How would we know if we had achieved this life of true wisdom?