Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
The temptation to be "teachers" (ver. 1) arose from the notion that they possessed wisdom. How shall they show this wisdom, how shall they even use it, if they may not teach? The life is to be at once the practice and the manifestation of a wisdom that is true (ver. 13). James here reverts to his earlier theme (James 1:5); and we have for our consideration - The false wisdom and the true, in their origin, nature, and fruits.
I. THE FALSE WISDOM.
1. What was the nature of the false wisdom which prompted them to much speaking? It was nothing other than the spirit of faction and jealousy - competing with one another for precedence; envying one another. And this was a lying against the truth! What truth? Their brotherhood in Christ, and the love which such brotherhood required. Such false wisdom was:
(1) Earthly: it pertained altogether to the corrupt ways of this world.
(2) Sensual: it was prompted, not by the spirit which God had made his home, but by the passions (see critical notes).
(3) Devilish: they were as demoniacs, in their ungoverned rage and wild clamorings.
2. What were the fruits of such wisdom as this? "Confusion." Think of their assemblies, with the wrangling, cursing, and swearing! so also confusion in all the relations of social life. "And every vile deed;" for what would not men descend to, to further their base, party aims?
3. What was the origin of such wisdom? "Not from above:" no, indeed, but rather "set on fire of hell"!
II. THE TRUE WISDOM.
1. Its nature. "First pure:" for at any cost, even at the cost of peaceableness, a Christian must be true. So Christ, even though it involved the "woes" of Matthew 23.; even though it involved the cross! And his followers likewise (Matthew 10:34). "Then peaceable," as against the jarrings and discords of the false wisdom; "gentle," as against faction and jealousy; "easy to be entreated," as against the sullen resentments shown by those who imagine themselves to be offended; "without variance," i.e. fickleness of purpose; and "without hypocrisy," to which double-mindedness so easily leads.
2. Its fruits. Peace, as opposed to confusion; and the good fruits of mercy, as opposed to vile deeds.
3. Its origin. "From above:" yes, from the Father of lights (James 1:17). So the tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Who is a wise man? Alas, who! But let us ask of God, who giveth liberally; remembering that "he that winneth souls is wise," and that "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and... as the stars forever and ever" (Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3). - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.