James 4:13-18: Two Wisdoms
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
The problem James is addressing, then, is not that there are teachers spreading false doctrine (as would often be the concern in Paul’s letters). James is addressing the problem of arrogance, which can be present even when correct doctrine is being taught. His warning should bring all teachers to an abrupt halt for self-examination. I can be correct in my doctrine down to the most esoteric details; I can attain a consistency in my orthodoxy which surpasses others’; I can gain a reputation for my thorough grasp of theology and be regarded as a protector of the faith; and my teaching may still be earthly, unspiritual, of the devil, resulting in disorder and every evil practice by stirring up suspicion, slander, distrust and contention within the Christian community.
For then my claim to be wise is itself a falsehood. That is the sense of James’s conclusion, Do not boast about it or deny the truth.
This Christian virtue of humility is modeled after the ministry of Christ, who served others, sacrificed himself and placed himself wholly at the Father’s disposal in perfect trust and obedience.
James wants peace for the church because peace is the context in which righteousness can flourish.