18 November 2013

James 3:13-18

“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” (v. 13)


The letter from James is filled with warnings about how many of its readers are getting carried away in their existence, and have forgotten what their life might be supposed to look like. For James, the indicator of a good life well lived is what that life looks like to other people. It's a common accusation of the Church or Christians that we act hypocritically. Jesus himself was full of disdain for those whom he saw being hypocrites. The problem for those being addressed by James, and for us, is that if at times we show wisdom and understanding, it looks much worse to others when we then continue to get it wrong. We know that we are completely fallible and our decision to follow Jesus doesn't get rid of our 'self-destruct' button, but we are called to see the consequences of our actions, which should limit the envy, selfish ambition and falseness which James points to as negatives.

Aristotle suggested that a person should not need to make individual decisions about the 'most ethical option', because they should already have made the decision about 'what kind of person they are'. According to Aristotle, the individual's actions would then follow naturally. James is clearly frustrated that people who understood what kind of people they were supposed to be, were then ignoring what their life should be like. James' reminder of which behaviours are beneficial and which are damaging are still vital to remember today. There is no harm in auditing our own actions and behaviors, and the good news of Jesus gives us an important yardstick against which to compare our existence.

To Ponder

  • In what ways to do we have a 'good life'?
  • What part(s) of your life could benefit from more wisdom and understanding?
  • In what ways can we tap into the 'wisdom from above'?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.