Concluding his discussion on the difficulty of controlling the tongue, James described “wise and understanding” believers (James 3:13a).
We should all seek to become persons whose attitudes and actions are “done in the meekness of wisdom” (3:13b). Biblical knowledge that does not change lives is meaningless.
Two attitudes will mark those who are not motivated by wisdom: first, “bitter jealousy,” or a “sharp, prickly or pungent” kind of “envy, [or] fervent rage against another because he does not have what another person has.” This kind of person demands to be respected, and anyone else is put down, criticized, or defamed.
Second, such people will display “selfishness in [their] hearts,” which means they will “[seek] their own benefits or ambitions,” which inevitably leads to “contention, strife, rivalry and scheming for personal advantage.” These inner attitudes become self-evident in behavior.
James is telling believers to “stop or cease boasting” (or “being arrogant or rejoicing against someone,” especially “to degrade someone”). Boasting is so normal that it is almost expected. People say, “If you don’t toot your own horn, nobody will.” Arrogance often is seen as self-confidence. Most people, especially leaders, want to boast of their accomplishments, importance, and successes.
James commands us to “stop or cease telling lies against the truth”—that is, do not “cheat, defraud, falsify, [or] speak deceitfully.”
Inevitably, when one is ambitious to be the best, or the most important person, and so on, his need for self-promotion will cause him to exaggerate, fabricate falsehoods, and deceive, “for where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16NKJ). Such foolish people talk on and on about themselves to anyone who will listen.
James concludes, saying, “This wisdom [i.e., this way of thinking] does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:15); “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” (3:17). Don’t worry about being great; value humility and fulfilling His will.
“Heavenly Father, I want to be accepted by others so much that I find myself bragging, exaggerating, and pretending to be better than I know I am. Make me conscious of how sinful this behavior is to You.”