“Who is wise and understanding among you? Bu his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. That is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” ~ James 3:13-18
For a daily devotion, I have been going through verses expositionally, focusing on a few verses at a time. I think this is important in order to understand the text, because I am of the mindset that the only way to truly apply the text to one’s life is to understand it. This means spending time learning it more intently and intelligently.
I once listened to John MacArthur share on his program Grace to You that he was studying to be stupid. He was reading Scripture every day and spending time in God’s word, but then a few days later he would forget it. As a result, he started reading large chunks of Scripture (whole books or for larger books he would read half of it) one day and he would keep rereading that same portion every day for the entire month. The purpose? In order to learn it and have that section implanted into his head and heart (getting an understanding of what basic parts it covered and the flow between thoughts).
I want to study God’s Word with the purpose of learning it, just as John MacArthur has purposed in his life. After some prayer, what I have decided to do is after covering a section of Scripture verse by verse (or a few verses at a time) I want to do one daily devotion that reviews that portion of text in its entirety. Yes, I still want to do a daily devotion that focuses on a few verses at a time. However, there is value in seeing a verse in its entire context (we must always take Scripture in its complete context). So today, although we have spent the last week or so already reviewing the verses found in James 3:13-18, I now want to read the entire section and review some application.
Explanation of the Text: This particular text is a discussion regarding false wisdom and true wisdom. Outlining what we have already learned over the last few days, we learn that heavenly wisdom is shown in humble conduct and works characterized by purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, fruit, impartiality, and sincerity. On the opposite side, false wisdom is characterized by jealousy and selfish ambition which result in disorder and every vile practice.
Examination & Application of the Text: As believers in Jesus Christ, each of us claims to have true wisdom (because Jesus is wisdom personified, 1 Corinthians 1:30). The challenge for us is to live out the true wisdom that we claim to have. James has outlined true wisdom and what that looks like in a person’s life. Therefore, how do we put that into place in our lives?
1) Job 28:28 says this: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” Every person must understand this basic principle if they are to walk in wisdom. That is that wisdom is the fear of the Lord and avoidance of sin. This same point is confirmed in Proverbs 9:10, where we learn that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. Therefore, true wisdom must first be characterized by a genuine fear of the Lord.
2) Humility. One of the most basic tenets of being conformed to Christ’s character is humility. It is that trait which makes us teachable, allowing us to acknowledge our shortcoming. Through this, we can then come before our Lord in submission so that the Holy Spirit may work on us in this area. I am personally convinced that this is one of the most lacking characteristics in my own life, in the lives of others, and in the lives of the church. In our lack of humility, in other words in our pride, we find division and conflict. We must be willing to set ourselves aside for the sake of our Savior.
3) Our society today has this sense of individualism. It says that each of us must be independent from one another and from authority, instead seeking to make our own identity. However, the call to Christ is the exact opposite. As a Christian it is not your own identity that you now have, but an identity in Christ that you can rejoice about! Scripture counteracts the claims to individualism by calling on believers to meet together and to impact one another. In looking at the characteristics that James lists for heavenly wisdom, there is a common trait in them. Each of them is something that is manifested towards others. They are not selfish motivations or self-love, but rather they are indicators of something that is exhibited towards others out of love for Christ. This is heavenly wisdom. Therefore, each of these characteristics should characterize your relationships with others, as giving evidence of the wisdom in your life.
What greater joy is there than to live in Christ, who is wisdom? What greater expression of that joy is there than to be faithful to Him through our conduct towards others? As verse 18 says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Let it be so in our lives.
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 717.