Apparently, James heard that certain members of local churches were guilty of criticizing one another, slandering one another, and judging one another, so James writes in no uncertain terms that this is wrong. I believe James is telling us that it is wrong to think we know what another person is going through or understand the pain the drives their actions. It is wrong to assume we can see a person’s heart and know their motives. It is wrong to judge another person when we have never taken the time to talk with them, weep with them or pray with them. James addresses this issue head on in verse 11 and 12.
James is asking if any of them think they are wise and intelligent, and then he answers the question by saying, in essence, “If you are wise and intelligent, then show it.” He says, “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” Like I said, wisdom is as wisdom does. The truth is that there are a lot of smart people with no wisdom, and a lot of wise people who won’t impress you with their IQ. Wisdom is as wisdom does.
If ever our country needed a church united around the best of what it means to be an example of Jesus Christ, it is now. And in this atmosphere filled with bitter words and entrenched positions that revolve more around a political party than around biblical precepts, the church must speak truth in love, and as ambassadors of Christ, stand ready as ministers of reconciliation and restoration. Speak life and light in a dark and dying world. Speak hope and healing in a hopeless and wounded world. Speak truth and love in deceived and angry world.
In verses 14 through 16 James asks three rhetorical questions, followed in verse 17 with a conclusion. You know what a rhetorical question is don’t you? Men, it’s when your wife comes home with a new haircut and asks, “Do you think this haircut looks good?” That is not a real question. In a rhetorical question the answer is implied in the question. It’s like when a man asks his wife, “Don’t you think that ‘bigger’ flatscreen TV would look good in the family room?” It’s more of a statement than an actual question
Have you ever met someone, as the saying goes, who was “all talk and no action”? They went to church religiously but they never got engaged in kingdom work. They claimed to love Jesus but outside of church no one could tell by how they talked or walked that they even knew Jesus. Religion for the sake of religion, or religion as a set of repetitive rituals, is empty and powerless, but religion as the overflow of a right relationship with Jesus Christ is a powerful force in the world.
THE TRIFECTA FOR CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION
The people to whom James was writing had returned to hostile environments where they were marginalized by the Gentiles for their race and religion, and ostracized by their own people because their faith in Jesus Christ put them at odds with the prevailing dogma and culture of their Jewish communities. James knew that this daily reality could easily lead to hostile confrontations, which would be detrimental to the witness of the church. To these believers James gives godly guidance, and in verse 19 we find the trifecta for open, clear, and calm communication: "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
In a fallen world we cannot keep the devil from putting things in our path that appeal to natural human desires, but by the same token the devil cannot force us to pursue anything we don’t want to pursue. One preacher observed that we cannot keep the devil from knocking on our door, but that doesn’t mean we have to open the door and let him in. The reason Satan has been so successful with temptation is because too many people are looking for the opportunity and temptation is just an excuse to open the door and do what they already wanted to do.
In a world of such uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that everything changes. Things that seem permanent and unshakable, tremble and fall. Empires may last a thousand years, but in time every empire that has ever existed met its demise at the hands of fallen and corrupt humanity. There is only one kingdom that shall never pass away.
If you could ask God for one, and only one thing, in your life, what would you ask for—more money, health, a long life? What would you ask? In fact, there’s an account in the Old Testament where God actually gave a man the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, and this man asked for wisdom. You probably know the story from 2 Chronicles chapter 1—Solomon became king of Israel following his father David, and he became a great king because the Lord was him. One day Solomon went up to the tabernacle his father David set up for the ark of the covenant, and he offered a sacrifice on the bronze altar. That night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
When God looks at you and me, He sees our potential; He sees people who are able to do great things through Christ who strengthens us. He sees more than conquerors; He sees champions. But the only way we are going to discover our own true capability in Christ is to go through the hard times to learn that we can get through the storms and struggles of life when our faith is fixed on Jesus.