Introduction: Have you ever said, “That person needs an attitude
adjustment?” Have you ever thought that your attitude could use
improvement? In our study this week, James has some practical
thoughts on wisdom and our attitude. Once again, he suggests some
things that seem inconsistent with other Bible texts. We will puzzle
out those apparent conflicts. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible
and see what we can learn about attitudes and wisdom!

  1. Wise and Understanding

    1. Read James 3:13. Look at the question. What do you think
      James expected? Would some people raise their hands and
      say, “Yes, that is me. I’m wise and understanding.” (I’ve
      known people who I think might raise their hand. But, my
      thought is that James is asking the question to start us
      thinking: “How can I become wise and understanding?” What
      does it mean to be wise and understanding?)

    2. Look again at James 3:13, but this time look at James’
      answer to the question. Is this just more of the same from
      James: our deeds prove our faith? (Yes it is more of the
      same, but it is also an opening for a discussion of what
      it means to be wise and understanding.)

    3. Read James 3:14-15. Are envy and ambition okay if they are
      not “bitter” and “selfish?” (Envy and ambition motivate us
      to get up and do something. But, you can cross a line.
      Bitter sounds like conflict, and the Greek behind the word
      translated “ambition” has an element of strife.)

      1. Why would someone boast about bitter envy and selfish
        ambition? (We see this all the time. Essentially the
        person says “I am going to fight my way to the top.”)

        1. James also mentions “denying the truth.” What
          “truth” is being denied? (The truth that we
          are, indeed, harboring bitter envy and selfish

      2. Wait a minute! James calls “bitter envy and selfish
        ambition” “wisdom.” What was James’ original
        question? (“Who is wise and understanding?”)

    4. Re-read James 3:13-15. Is James comparing two views of
      wisdom? (Yes. God’s wisdom produces a good life and deeds
      done with an attitude of humility. Satan’s wisdom produces
      an attitude of bitter envy and selfish ambition.)

      1. Why does James compare the two? (He wants us to
        choose the right wisdom, the wisdom that comes from

    5. Read James 3:16. What kind of life does Satan’s wisdom
      produce? (“Disorder and every evil practice.” This
      motivates us to seek God’s wisdom.)

    6. Read James 3:17. We have the problem of “which comes
      first?” Are these attitudes the result of heavenly wisdom
      (much like disorder and evil practice result from Satan’s
      wisdom), or is James describing the kinds of attitudes we
      need to cultivate to have heaven’s wisdom? (How about a
      third answer: I think it is a test. How can you tell
      heavenly wisdom? It looks like this: Pure, peaceful,
      sincere, impartial, mercy, good deeds, submissive and a
      considerate attitude.)

    7. Read James 3:18. Why do you think James singles out
      “peacemakers?” “Peace” is just one of the attitudes
      resulting from God’s wisdom, why highlight it? (I’ll bet
      you agree with James: having someone in your life who
      promotes peace, instead of trouble, is very important.
      Peace brings a harvest of righteousness.)

  2. Troublemakers

    1. Read James 4:1-2. Look at James’ question, “What causes
      fights?” What do you think about his answer to that
      question? (It seems right. We get into fights because we
      think we should have something that we don’t have.)

      1. Let’s consider this in connection with Satan’s
        wisdom. What tilts people towards Satan’s wisdom? (An
        attitude that they have been deprived of something.
        This arises from bitter envy and selfish ambition.
        The result is coveting, quarreling, fighting, and

      2. What is the solution to this serious problem? (Asking
        God for those things we covet.)

    2. Read James 4:3. James just suggested that we ask God when
      we feel deprived of something. Now he limits our ability
      to ask. What do you think about James’ limit?

      1. How many of the things you ask God for involve your
        own pleasure?

      2. Read Matthew 7:9-11. Do you give your children good
        gifts that give them pleasure?

        1. Would you want to give your child a gift that
          did not bring pleasure?

          1. If you say, “No, I want my child to enjoy
            my gift,” what is James talking about? (I
            suspect this has something to do with what
            is meant by “good” gifts and what kind of
            pleasure James means.)

    3. Read James 4:4-5. Has James jumped to a different topic?

      1. If you say, “no,” what has this to do with God’s
        wisdom – the wisdom that asks for the right things?
        (I don’t think James has changed topics. Instead, he
        says that what brings us pleasure turns on who we
        have as friends. If we have the attitude of the
        world, we will always covet (envy intensely), which
        creates unhappiness, quarrels and fights in our life.
        We should not expect God to fill the hole created by
        this envy. If God did that He would promote the wrong

  3. The Cure

    1. Read James 4:6. What is the cure for Satan’s wisdom, with
      its resulting envy and trouble? (Grace. God offers to send
      His Holy Spirit to convert our hearts. We need to put
      away our pride, and realize our need of grace.)

    2. Read James 4:7-8. Would you like a more peaceful life?
      What practical steps does James prescribe? (The attitude
      of submitting to God, resisting Satan.)

      1. When James tells us to “wash” our hands and “purify”
        our hearts, is he advocating good hygiene? (Our hands
        represent what we do, and our hearts represent what
        we think.)

        1. Is James advocating works? (Notice that James
          introduces this by saying “come near to God”
          and God “will come near to you.” I’ll
          understand that as grace.)

    3. Read James 4:9. Is this God’s wisdom: to grieve, mourn,
      wail and be gloomy? Those attitudes and practices should
      make Christianity attractive!

      1. Read John 15:9-11 and Galatians 5:22. Jesus tells us
        that obedience brings joy. Paul tells us that the
        Holy Spirit living in us brings joy. Is James off on
        a tangent? This is a serious question because I have
        heard so-called Christians advocating an attitude of
        gloom and mourning. (Look at the context. James is
        giving advice to those who are coming over from the
        dark side. These are people who need a change of
        attitude and a change of actions. Thus, I think James
        is saying to be serious about our sins. Grieve and
        mourn our life of sin. Once we bring this sin to God
        for forgiveness, then joy is one of the gifts of the
        Holy Spirit living in us.)

    4. Read James 4:10. What kind of humility is James calling
      for? (Look at context again. Humility is submitting to
      God’s desire for your life. If we have that attitude, God
      will “lift you up.”)

      1. Does this look like the advice on gloom and joy? (It
        is an exact parallel. The sadness over your sins
        brings joy for the future. Humbling your will before
        God, brings glory for the future.)

    5. Let’s assume that you are counseling young people. How
      would you lay out the two alternative paths and encourage
      them to follow the path of God’s wisdom? (Ask what kind of
      life they want to have. Do they want to constantly be
      envious and bitter about the success of those around them?
      Do they want to have disorder, quarrels and fights as a
      regular part of life? If they prefer peace, satisfaction
      and honor, then they need to decide to choose God’s path
      and God’s attitudes.)

    6. Friend, how about you? How is your life? How is your
      attitude? Look again at James 3:17 and see if the wisdom
      of your life looks like this. If not, why not ask the Holy
      Spirit to change your attitudes to give you God’s wisdom?

  4. Next week: One Lawgiver and Judge.