E. Crucial Exercise of Wisdom (3:13–18)

After issuing a warning and probing the heart of the teacher, James addresses the subject that ordinarily attends a teacher—knowledge. Immediately, however, he places it in the larger context. Both the possession and the product of wisdom must be kept in view. So he exhorts that the wise person must utilize his resources to fashion a beautiful life (v. 13). This will happen through enlightened self-restraint (the humility that comes from wisdom, v. 13). The wisdom of Christian faith always has something to do with the ordering of an exemplary life.

James calls attention to the presence of wrong attitudes among would-be teachers. “If [since] you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast [stop boasting] about it or deny [stop denying] the truth” (v. 14). These attitudes proceed from a depraved, this-worldly, unholy spirit. They are self-centered and will ultimately create disorder in the community. But when the divine Spirit invades a person, he cleanses the heart and enables him to subordinate the natural drives and to choose that course of action that will promote peace.

This table of virtues given here describes the person who resists the temptation to exalt himself and to exult over the failures of others. When this kind of wisdom is operative, God is in process of fashioning a harmonious, holy community that manifests his perfect design.