James (Part 10) A Good Way To Live
By Ben Fronczek
Text: James 3:13-4:10
My daughter works at a grocery store and this past she told me about one of her customers. A gentleman came up to her and asked if she could do him a favor. He explained that he wanted her to go to the flower department and buy another customer he had seen in the store the nicest and biggest bunch of flowers available and give them to the lady. He told her that he was a pharmacist an he knew that this particular lady was very sick and thought she could use a little encouragement. He also asked her not to divulge who gave her the flowers and then gave her money to pay for them. She went and picked out the nicest bunch of flowers and found the lady who looked very pale and gave them to her explaining that someone had seen her and thought that she needed a little bright spot in her day. Well lady broke out in tears of gratitude wanting to know who the generous person was that sent her the flowers because she wanted to say thank you. Not knowing that the gentleman was not very far away checking out, my daughter let her know that he knew. Another time she has saw this particular man at the checkout counter behind a family with a large cart full of groceries and he paid for their order.
As I heard about this gentleman I though, wouldn’t the world be so much better if there were more people like this man.
I would like to share with you a good thought, some good news found in Galatians 6:9 where the apostle Paul states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I like this verse because I believe God is telling us to just hang in there, and not to get so weary, so burned out as you keep doing one good thing after another when no one seems to care, and you just feel like giving up and throwing the towel and live like everyone else. I believe that Paul wants us to know that just at the right time, when God sees fit, He is going to bless you for not giving up. That’s a promise for you and me from God.
If you know anything about farming you know that this is simply the law of the harvest. You don’t reap a harvest the same day that you sow a seed. It will take a while before your reap a reward usually after plowing, fertilizing, sowing, and cultivating that crop and waiting for it to mature.
And likewise Paul is encouraging Christians not to grow weary and give up doing what is right and good to soon. Why, because your efforts will not go unrewarded.
But what kind of good are we talking about here? In James chapter 3 and 4 James talks about not only the best way to live, he also talks about a foolish ways to live as a Christian. One is called ‘wisdom that comes from Heaven’ and the other is called ‘earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.’ (Read James 3:13-4:10)
I would like to think that if James learned these principles from anyone, I would like to believe that he learned it from his brother Jesus as he was growing up. I don’t believe anyone ever lived the good life and emulated these good traits, and revealed the evil and hypocrisy like Jesus.
So first of all let’s look at what James has to say about living in a good and wise manner. First of all he says in verse 13 that if we are wise in this kind of understanding we should show it by how we live, or as he says, “Show it by a good life, deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
The NLT put it this way, “13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”
So if we are a wise Christian we will prove it by how we live, by living a good and honorable life. We should be doing good deeds or good works, (not as a showoff, but rather done with a humble heart honoring the Father and Jesus).
James goes into a little more detail a few verses down starting in verse 17 where he says, “The wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all:
- Pure. Is your heart pure? Do you have the right intention when you help someone? Or do you have ulterior motives? Pure is pure. You want to do something because it is simply the right thing to do. Someone may need help, encouragement, or financial help and you help them because in your heart you know it’s what God would want you to do, so you do it with no strings attached.
James goes on to say that Wisdom from Heaven is also …
- Peace-loving. Some people may reject what you are doing. Others may criticize you for trying to do good, and like Jesus some may even persecute you for trying to do good. Like Jesus we should not plot to retaliate or get even. It takes two to fight. So if one is slow to speak, silent, and starts praying about the situation, a confrontation is less likely to erupt into a fight. In the Sermon on the Mt. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called sons of God” (MT. 5:9) In Verse 18 James writes, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest off righteousness.”
Like Paul said in Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” If you sow peace you will raise a harvest of righteousness.”
James also informs us that wisdom that comes from Heaven is also…
- Considerate or will to yield to others. It’s knowing that everything is not all about you. Sometimes it’s about letting others go first, or letting others have more. It’s about showing honor and respect, and having manners. I think being considerate is about just being nice in all situations.
Next James says wisdom from Heaven is…
- Full of Mercy. This is how we react when someone messes up or does something either to us or someone we know or care about.
How do you react? Do you have a forgiving spirit or one that is critical? Sometimes some of us can be downright mean, hard or even nasty to others when they cross us. Want an example? I have learned not to get angry with other drivers who do stupid things around me when I am driving. What to know why? Because I have done my share of stupid things.
I am not a perfect driver. I have made mistakes and cut off people or have done other things so I don’t think I have any right to get upset when other drivers do stupid things. I have learned to just blow those things off almost immediately. But with others, there is no mercy when they get cut off by another. Curses are spoken. Fists are shaken and the one cut off gets all worked up and hostile. Are you like that? James said that wisdom that comes from heaven shows mercy…. Not only in the car but at all times, by forgiving, by being generous to those in need and helping those who need help. It’s all about the the condition of our heart.
And finally James says Wisdom that comes from Heaven is…
- Full of good deeds impartial and sincere.. Earlier Jesus said you will know a tree by the fruit it bears. If you are good, you will just naturally bear good fruit.
And then in this section James talks a lot about the “earthly, unspiritual and demonic” ways to live. How does he describe these worldly demonic traits?
- First of all in vs. 14 when harboring bitter envy. When we’re sickened by the fact that others have something we do not. Instead of being happy for them we actually are upset or even get angry that we don’t have what they have. Or when we aren’t loved or appreciated like someone else we just become bitter. I believe this no more than a self induced pity party.
Another ungodly trait he mentions here is this text is:
- Selfish ambition. You know when it’s not about helping others, rather it’s all about me and what I can get out of it in the end; a complement, a blessing, a reward, the self gratification, an advancement. In the end it all about serving our self. James said that this is downright demonic. Yet how many of us do good things for this reason? I believe we all do…. That is until we learn Heaven’s way, God’s way, Jesus’ way… and then as we become wiser and we slowly begin to do things to help others for God’s glory, not our own.
I believe that these two, envy and selfishness are behind much of the grief and evil in this world. My old friend Larry Deason use to say that he thought the very best definition of sin is selfishness. In vs.16 James says “where you have evil and selfishness you will find disorder and evil of every kind. (NLT)
James goes on to elaborate on this in Chapter 4. “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.
Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
He’s saying you are jealous and envious of what others have so you fight and argue and brood over it because you are selfish. Wars have been fought and people have been kill and are being killed for this very reason; because people jealous, envious, and selfish. And even if they ask God for something they are asking for the wrong reason. Even in their prayers they are self centered and selfish. In verse 3 he said all these people want to do is spend what they get from God on their own pleasures.
James said that mentality is not from heaven; rather it’s a earthly, worldly, and a demon-like mentality.
And James goes on to let us know that God is hurt like a jealous lover when we chase after things of the world just to please our self. In vss. 4-5 he writes, “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy?”
Yes this verse says that God is filled with envy, but it is not for His sake, it’s for ours. Like someone who wants his loved one to return home from chasing after another, or like a parent who yearns for his child to return home from carousing (like the Prodigal son) God what’s people to return to Him after chasing after the things of this world.
And then in 4:7 James begins to give wise instruction on how to get back on the right path to God. First of all he says that we need to submit to God. Humbly turn back to Him and choose Him and His way.
Next James tells us that we have to do our best to resist the devil and he will flee. Sad to say, too many don’t even try to resist. The devil tempts and because of our own selfish desires, and because we don’t know or care what God wants for us we just lunge after that which will satisfy our own desire.
James wrote resist the devil, come near to God and he will come near to you. Actually I don’t think God has gone anywhere. We are the one who walk away from Him.
James goes on to say, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” NLT
Close: So God wants us to keep on hanging in there doing good things. Not that you earn your salvation by doing good works, rather putting away envy, jealousy and selfishness and doing good should be the goal of those who are saved.
May challenge for you is this week to make it your goal to put on the wisdom of Heaven and seek to be pure; peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
And last of all, do some good deeds this week to God’s glory