Step Towards Transformation

PART 9-James 3:13-18;How To Have Good Conduct With Godly Wisdom


James 3:13-18 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

So far, we have examined

  1. How To Respond To Trials,
  2. How To Seek Wisdom In Trials,
  3. How To Have Proper Prospective In Life,
  4. How To Understand & Defeat Temptation
  5. How To Look In The Mirror Of The Word And Be Doers Of The Word.
  6. How To Deal With The Sin Of Partiality
  7. How To Prove Your Faith With Works
  8. How To Discipline The Tongue

As we continue to move forward through this series, this week we will examine another issue that is a problem area in the lives of most Christian people: How To Have Good Conduct With Wisdom.

James begins by pointing out that there is an unbreakable link between the kind of wisdom we possess and our conduct. He begins with a question: Who is wise and understanding among you?

James answers his question of challenge with an imperative – SHOW it! He’s NOT interested in a SAY-so Wisdom; he’s interested in a SHOW-so Wisdom. “Who is wise and understanding among you? SHOW it!”

Illustration: A small storeowner was being pressured to sell his store to the owners of a large department store who had bought every building on the block, except his. Frustrated by the man’s refusal to sell, they eventually opened their huge store on either side of the small one, with a big banner running from one side to the other, proclaiming in huge letters “GRAND OPENING.” Feeling equally frustrated, the small storeowner did finally outsmart the large department store. Below the grand opening sign, across the front of his small store, the man put up a small banner over his door: “MAIN ENTRANCE.” 

We have at our disposal today more knowledge than at any time in history. … but there is still a shortage of wisdom, especially when it comes to the kind of choices we make in life.

Wisdom is about a right understanding and a right application of the way things really are.

Lets have some recap of what we learnt in Part 2 Of James Bible Study On Wisdom

Proverbs 1:7 Says: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of KNOWLEDGE; fools despise WISDOM and instruction[UNDERSTANDING].

Proverbs 9:10 Says: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of WISDOM, and KNOWLEDGE of the Holy One is UNDERSTANDING.

  •  Knowledge – the facts (Colossians 2:8,). Those with knowledge are able to collect, remember, and access information. But, it is possible to have knowledge and lack understanding and wisdom. Someone might have the facts, but not know what they mean or what to do next.
  • Understanding – ability to translate meaning from the facts (Psalm 119:130, Proverbs 3:5-7, 18:2, Philippians 1:9-10). Those with understanding are able to extract the meaning out of information. They “see through” the facts to the dynamics of what, how, and why. Understanding is a lens which brings the facts into crisp focus and produces principles.

The Spirit of Understanding is God’s supernatural revelation-His secret insights to His Word.  Understanding simply means a “putting together” or a comprehending or a grasping of His Word.  The Spirit of God illuminates our hearts and gives us understanding of His Wisdom.  In other words, He “turns on the lights for us.”

Note: Unless I immediately write down what the Lord is showing me, I won’t remember it.  If it’s a supernatural revelation from God, then it’s not something that is registered in my own mind yet. I know myself-I know if I don’t write down the supernatural wisdom and understanding that God is giving me, I’ll lose it.  I’ll bet it’s the same for you!

Illustration: Often when I’m in the shower, supernatural revelations and answers pop into my mind to questions that I’ve been asking God about for months.  Again, so I won’t forget it, I’ll get out of the shower dripping wet, tippy-toe to where I can find a pencil and paper and write down what God has shown me.  See, I know it’s not “me” that has “turned on the lights” at that moment, but God’s Spirit of Understanding.

Proverbs 4:7 says  Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

  •  Wisdom – knowing what to do next, given an understanding of the facts and circumstances (Ecclesiastes 8:1, James 3:17).

Those with wisdom know which principle to apply in a given context.

NOTE: Understanding without wisdom can appear contradictory (Proverbs 26:4-5). Here the wise are given instruction on how to deal with fools. Instructing a fool is pointless because his speech is full of foolishness (Proverbs 15:2,14) and he does not want wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 18:2).

Whether we use the principle of verse 4 and deal with a fool by ignoring him, or obey verse 5 and reprove a fool depends on the situation. In matters of insignificance, it’s probably better to disregard him. In more important areas, such as when a fool denies the existence of God (Psalm 14:1), verse 5 tells us to respond to his foolishness with words of rebuke and instruction. To let a fool speak his nonsense without reproof encourages him to remain wise in his own eyes and possibly gives credibility to his folly in the eyes of others.

In short, in negligible issues we should just ignore fools, but in issues that matter, they must be dealt with so that credence will not be given to what they say.

Another example, the statement, “He who hesitates is lost,” is true, but so is the idea that “haste makes waste.” Which principle to use depends on the context. Those with wisdom know what actions to take next. They do the right thing in the given situation. In contrast, there are many who have great knowledge and understanding but who consistently do the wrong thing.

The Following Table May Help You Visualize The Difference Between These Three Terms:

Facts तथ्य/ हक़ीक़त Meaning अर्थ What to Do Next             आगे क्या करना है
Information जानकारी Principles सिद्धांत Application इस्तेमाल करना
Memory याददाश्त Reason कारण Action क्रिया करना
Scholars विद्वान Teachers शिक्षक Practitioners करने वाला

 Proverbs 3:13 says  Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gets understanding.” 

Proverbs 16:16 says  “To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” It is a matter of life and death.

This word wise in the Greek is “sophos”; it does not necessarily mean brilliant, high IQ or book smarts but rather the ability to apply with skill what one knows. Wisdom was an important thing to the Jewish people. They realized it was not enough to have knowledge; you had to also have wisdom to be able to use the knowledge correctly. All of us know people who are very intelligent, perhaps almost geniuses, and yet, seemingly are unable to carry out the simplest tasks of life. They can run a computer but cannot run their own life.

James is asking who is truly skilled in the art of living. Are you WISE?

James is not condemning wisdom or wise people. He is saying that wisdom is another way that faith becomes visible in the life of a believer. He says, “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Humble deeds – actions done without concern for or about yourself.

On a personal level, wisdom is your personal truth (as you know it and have experienced) applied to life.

Illustration: Once I took my friends son to celebrate his birthday along with the family to a restaurant. Outside the restaurant I parked my new motor bike. All flashy and glittery. My friends son could not resist touching this bike – as he would normally say “I am just looking, Dad”. As he approached this bike to “look”, he carelessly let his feet touch the bike’s hot exhaust. Immediately his feet received serious burn which to this day exists. Now for him “looking” does not include “touching” anymore. He has learned his lesson. That Boy’s younger sister has very similar “looking” habits and would unknowingly want to touch hot objects ..just to look. This boy now often stops her and warns her of the consequences, reminding her of what had happened to him – of course he has a burn mark to show off. This is personal wisdom, something he acquired. It’s a truth he has learned that he now applies to his life, and shares with others about their life.

  • Wisdom is not just speech, it has a lot to do with our actions and the way we live, our deeds.
  • Wisdom is the way you live and not the way you talk. Wise men live well, live humbly

In fact, there are a lot of situations in your life where you are not going to be able to open the Bible and get a direct answer and you are going to have to use discernment to make the right choice.

Note; Wisdom pushes us to understand how the world works and gives us the possibility of acting in ways that fit the pattern of the created order. Even those who have never gone to church or read the Bible have access to wisdom. Wisdom reclines in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known. –(Proverbs 14:33)

Note: But in acquiring wisdom, we must be sure that we seek wisdom that is true, for there is a false sort of wisdom that can lead to wrong. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” – Proverbs 16:25 (NIV)

Verses 14 to 16…James now starts to explain about  two types of People or we can say Two types of Wisdom,

  • Those Who SAY-So (False Wisdom, Man’s Wisdom, Unspiritual Wisdom, Worldly) And
  • Those Who SHOW-So (True Wisdom, God’s Wisdom, Spiritual Wisdom, Heavenly).

There is wisdom that originates from the world and there is wisdom that comes from God, Himself. We need to choose between the two. Worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom, which path will you choose?


  • It’s Roots (Read And Explain James 3:14)

Verse 14a says that worldly wisdom comes from two main roots, bitter envy and selfish ambition. Let’s look at these two roots more closely.

  • The first root of worldly wisdom is bitter envy. Bitter envy means to have a contentious rivalry, or jealousy.

Illustration: There was an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another – until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird.

Bitter envy makes us compare ourselves to others.

Illustration: A friend of mine stated this  “I remember when microwave ovens first came out. I remember visiting our relatives. During that visit they showed us their new microwave oven. Well we returned home and a couple of weeks later, I came home from school one day and was shocked to see a new microwave oven in the kitchen. In fact, it was the model better than our relatives.”

Bitter envy makes us unthankful with what we have, and what we achieve.

  • It’s not good enough to have enough to eat, a place to live, and clothes to wear. We have to be better than the people around us.
  • It’s not good enough that we have a job that provides for our needs. We need a job where we are promoted higher than the people around us.

Illustration: Kent Hughes tells the story of two men who lived in a certain city. One was envious and the other covetous. The ruler of the city sent for them and said he wanted to grant them one wish each—with this proviso, that the one who chose first would get exactly what he asked for, while the other man would get exactly twice what the first had asked for himself. The envious man was ordered to choose first, but immediately found himself in a dilemma. He wanted to choose something great for himself, but realized that if he did so the other would get twice as much. He thought for a while, and then asked that one of his eyes be put out. In the church this type of person could honestly pray, “Lord, I wish sooner your work was not done at all than done by someone better than I can do it.”

One author says this…”envy is the enemy of Christian living.” It is the exact opposite of grace.

  • Envy wants to grab things… constantly. Grace wants to give things away.
  • Envy only takes care of one person.. Self. Grace takes care of others.
  • The second root is selfish ambition. Selfish ambition is just what it says. We think of our own goals and plans and we try to achieve them at whatever cost. Selfish ambition means that we always want to get our own way. This is a childish way to live life. Think of a little child. All they think about is getting what they want, and if they don’t get it, what do they do? They throw a tantrum.

Verse 14b James tells us that if we have these sins in our heart not to deny the truth, but to face the truth head on, and to deal with it through confession and repentance.

How many of you know by now that it does us no good to deny the truth?  There are 2 types of people: those who are messed up and admit it, and those who are in denial.”

Why is it so important that we face the truth of our own sinfulness even when it’s uncomfortable? Jeremiah 6:14 You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!

  • It’s Qualities (Read And Explain James 3:15)

– Having told us the ROOTS of this False Wisdom, James now outlines its QUALITIES…3 in fact.

Verse 15 says that worldly wisdom is earthly, unspiritual or sensual and from the devil.

The believer has three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These enemies are suggested by the terms “earthly, sensual, devilish.”

  1. The first quality is this: It is earthly. Worldly wisdom makes judgements with limited information and because of that the conclusions this wisdom makes are wrong. In fact the advice of worldly judgement can lead only to disaster. It tells people that there are no eternal consequences for their actions. This so called freedom leads people into all kinds of bondage and addictions.
  1. The second quality of worldly wisdom is this: It is sensual. Worldly wisdom says that all that exists is what we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. It denies the reality of God, the devil, heaven and hell.
  1. The third quality of worldly wisdom is this: It is from the devil. This is a startling fact. Satan is the mastermind of this worldly wisdom. Why? Because he knows if he can get people to follow worldly wisdom he will fill hell with souls.

There are two great lies that Satan circulates.

  • The first is the devil is all powerful and you need to be afraid of him at all times. That’s the lie that possesses many of the people in Papua New Guinea. That’s why they practice witchcraft and sorcery to protect themselves against evil spirits.
  • The second lie may be even greater. The second great lie is there is no devil. If we believe that, then Satan can have a free reign to work in our lives. And that’s how he uses worldly wisdom. He knows that everyone who lives by worldly wisdom will face futility, broken relationships and sorrow in this life, and will experience eternal damnation in the life to come.
  • It’s Fruit (Read And Explain James 3:16) Disorder and Every vile practice

Worldly wisdom results in confusion and evil practice. The word translated “evil” here means, “worthless, of no account.”

Illustration: Remember the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He was envious of his rich neighbors. He wanted it so he sent in his armies. The world stepped in and forced him out. So what did he do as he left? He torched the oil fields. If he couldn’t have them, neither could anyone else.0

False wisdom originates from the flesh, the world and the devil. Ultimately, just as the unbridled tongue is employed by demonic powers to destroy the work of God [e.g. JAMES 3:6], so the false wisdom that is esteemed by this world is used by demonic powers to destroy God’s holy work.

Whenever we employ worldly wisdom, refusing to embrace godly wisdom, we become ignorant workers together with the evil one.

Illustration: Bobs friend John stopped by his  house one day in his pickup truck. Bob noticed that a bracket was broken on the truck causing the tail pipe to shake against the frame. Having just obtained an electric welder which  Bob loved to use at the slightest excuse, he offered to fix the bracket. John seemed grateful for this offer, and Bob set out to weld the broken piece. But the task was not easy. The position of the break, along with Bob’s  inexperience and lack of skill, made the repair difficult. As Bob proceeded to blunder along, his friend John tried to look impressed and appreciative. After a while, Bob turned to John and asked, “Do you know how to weld?” When John admitted that he did know a little about welding, Bob suddenly recalled with considerable embarrassment that John had been a teacher of industrial arts. He not only knew how to weld; he had taught others to weld.

This story is a great illustration of what James is saying to us here. When we try to live apart from the true wisdom that God alone gives, we are like Bob was, trying to weld that tailpipe. All the while, our gracious God stands by and waits patiently for us to ask for Him for help. Remember the promise given to us in James 1:5?

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5 (NIV)

Note: I am not saying that all worldly wisdom is wrong, but when it comes to Godly wisdom…it is a wisdom that has a heavenly focus. It is a wisdom that will help us live lives that are pleasing to God, lives that are going to be fruitful for the Kingdom and lives that project His goodness to the world.


  • It’s Roots (Read And Explain James 3:17)

Verse 17A says that HEAVENLY  wisdom comes from ABOVE [HEAVEN OR FROM GOD]

 Prov. 9:10 = “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”; 

  • It’s Qualities (Read And Explain James 3:17b)

It’s described in verse 17 (read verse). There are nine qualities listed here and I want to look at them quickly and then look at our greatest example of heavenly wisdom.

  1. First it’s from heaven. Heavenly wisdom isn’t something we can figure out ourselves. So many times what heavenly wisdom says is opposite to what worldly wisdom says.
  • Heavenly wisdom says that the first shall be last.
  • It says to live we have to die.
  • It says to have everything, we have to give everything away.

These things we don’t discern by our senses. We have to have it revealed to us by God Himself. And He reveals it in a large part through the written Word of God, the Bible.

  1. Second, it’s pure. Pure means undiluted and whole. Heavenly wisdom is shown by absolute, unswerving trust in the Word of God. We aren’t double minded, like it says in James 1:6-8.
  2. Third, it’s peace-loving. Heavenly wisdom is the path that looks for a peaceful resolution to the problem. If someone picks fights, you know that they are living by worldly wisdom, not heavenly wisdom.
  3. Fourth, it’s considerate. If we follow the path of heavenly wisdom we will think of others before ourselves. Instead of looking out for our own interests, we will think of the needs of the other.
  4. Fifth, it’s submissive. A person who follows this path does not fight for his or her rights, but leaves all their rights in the hands of God, trusting Him to do right.
  5. Sixth, it’s full of mercy. Following the path of heavenly wisdom means showing others grace and forgiveness even when they don’t deserve it. We think the best of others and surrender any grievances to God.
  6. Seventh, it’s full of good fruit. A person following the path of heavenly wisdom will be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  7. Eighth, it’s impartial. Following the path of heavenly wisdom means that there will be no discrimination in our thoughts, decisions and actions.
  8. Ninth, it’s sincere. When we live according to heavenly wisdom we can be transparent and honest to others. We have no ulterior motives or secrets to hide. People will recognize us as genuine.
  • It’s Fruit (Read And Explain James 3:18))… A harvest of righteousness

By living according to heavenly wisdom, we become God’s peacemakers and the fruit of our lives will be righteousness. That righteousness will be evident in our lives and also in the lives of others.


Is your life at peace? Do you see peace reflected in the lives of others?

We can be at PEACE even in the middle of a storm. A Submarine is in danger on the surface if the waves get too big. But when the storms come, a submarine can dive down below the surface of the water. The water is always calm below the surface. All that the submarine has to do is DIVE DEEP. To find peace, we can DIVE DEEP.

Illustration: The Rest Of The Story Behind The Photo (Lighthouse In The Storm).

The lighthouse off the northern coast of France has been operating since 1911. It has been unmanned and fully automated since 1991. On the night of December 20, 1989 a storm had smashed windows and flooded the lower floor of the lighthouse, washing away furniture and appliances. The keeper took refuge in the lantern room at the top, awaiting rescue. The next day he heard the sound of Jean Guichard’s helicopter, who was on a photo shoot. Thinking it was a rescue helicopter, the keeper, Théodore Malgorne, opened the door to see. He realized it was not the rescue helicopter, and noticed the giant wave just in time to turn back inside and shut the door. That huge wave broke against the back side of the lighthouse and engulfed it. All this time, Jean Guichard was in his helicopter taking pictures as fast as possible. Théodore Malgorne survived, and was later rescued. He was safe in the lighthouse. He was unaware of the coming waves, but the lighthouse stood and is still standing! He didn’t feel at peace but his safety was not in how he felt, but rather in the strength of the lighthouse.

Our peace does not come from our sense of inner peace, but from God’s ability to protect us from all danger. This PEACE comes from him and is the mark of those whose strength and wisdom come from God.

What is your choice? Which path will you choose?

  1. Choose to help someone else meet their own goals rather than your own.
  • I challenge you to try it in your own life. Choose to help someone else meet their goals before your own. Think about one person who you could help meet their goals. It could be a friend, or a brother or sister, or your mom or dad, or even a teacher. See if your new initiative doesn’t start a small revolution in your relationships.
  1. Choose always to have less than more.
  • First learn to be satisfied with what you have. We need to learn to be thankful for all that God has already given us. If something works then don’t buy a new one. Get rid of the mentality that always demands the newest and best.
  • Second, when buying, always choose to have less than more.
  • Third, find freedom through giving. Being generous is the one sure way to kill covetousness. In fact, if some material possession has a strong hold on you, one of the best ways to cure yourself is to give it away.
  1. Choose the lower place in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important.
  • First serve anonymously. Choose one ministry where you can serve where no one, other than God knows
  • Second relate with those who are hard to relate with. In social gatherings, you know there are people you enjoy spending time with and talking with. There are also others who you tend to avoid because they are so different from you or are socially awkward. Choose to spend time with them and talk with them. After all that’s what Jesus did.
  1. Choose to have God’s will completely fulfilled in your life.
  • This is what Jesus did when he humbled Himself and became nothing. He chose to do the Father’s will. Whatever God is calling you to do, trust Him. He has only good plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. And really choosing heavenly wisdom is really only choosing to do the will of God.

Will we choose worldly wisdom or heavenly wisdom? Which path will you choose?


  • Have you ever measured something wrong and wasted your wood or material? How did you feel? How is this like living the Christian life?
  • What is jealously? Have you struggled with jealousy? How so? What causes it? How can you know when your emotions get out of control with envy?
  • How would you describe the distinction between the world’s wisdom and the wisdom of God?
  • How would you describe a peacemaker? How have you seen this work? Have you been one? How can you be one?
  • Is there a sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
  • What can I model and teach? What does God want me to share with someone?

Next James Bible Study Part 10: James 4:1-3; How Worldly Wisdom Affects Our Prayers 

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2020 by in JAMES BIBLE STUDY and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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