The Book of James

Lesson 8 - "Improving Your Relationships"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 3:13-18, “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. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”


James continues to lead us on a "journey into faith that works" by giving us some principles to improve our relationships. When our relationships are bad, life is a mess. We can be great successes, earn all kinds of money, and have everybody know our names, but if our personal relationships are bad, we're miserable. To improve our relationships we must do two things: avoid worldly wisdom and acquire heavenly wisdom. Let’s look at these two things,


#1) We said that first, we are to avoid worldly wisdom.

Look again with me at James 3:13-16, “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. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”


James opens this section with a question in verse 13. He asks, Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” The word translated wise here means practical wisdom or practical skill in living. We get our English word "sophisticated" from this word.


So, James is asking, "Who among you is equipped with practical skills in living?" James answers in the next phrase, “Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” The word translated conversation means "behavior." Therefore, James is saying wisdom is not knowledge; it is knowing how to apply knowledge to our behavior and our daily problems. Knowledge without wisdom can harm relationships. I Corinthians 8:1 reminds us that, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”


Knowledge and education can make us prideful and arrogant, but wisdom produces meekness and humility, which are essential to improving relationships. If we are humble, we will not think we are better than everybody else and we will treat all people as equals. We will look at ourselves accurately like Romans 12:3 suggests that we are “Not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.” Lack of wisdom and meekness causes all kinds of relationship problems.

Next, James exposes two more things that hurt our relationships, bitter envying and strife. The phrase bitter envying refers to an envy that leads to anger and resentment. People with bitter envying may be intelligent, talented, and educated, but they resent anyone who appears to threaten their territories or careers. The word translated strife carries the idea of causing contention or creating factions within our relationships.


Referring to bitter envying and strife, James writes in verse 14, “Glory not, and lie not against the truth.” This means "stop claiming these two are a result of God's wisdom." Then, James reveals the source of bitter envying and strife by writing in verse 15, This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.”


The word earthly means "earthbound" or having the world's perspective. It is worldly wisdom. The word sensual means this "wisdom" is based on human feelings and reasoning and is not from God. Not only is worldly wisdom earthly and sensual, it is also devilish. The real source of selfishness is always the devil. He wants to produce a climate at home, at church, at work, or at school that damages and destroys relationships.


The devil wants to steal us from God's purpose for our lives. He wants to kill people spiritually by preventing them from going to heaven. Furthermore, he wants to destroy all our human relationships and our close relationship with God. Worldly wisdom, which causes envying and strife comes from the devil. Wherever these two things exist, James tell us in verse 16. “There is confusion and every evil work.” And so we see that worldly wisdom causes all kinds of chaos and confusion that hurt our relationships.


#2) We must avoid worldly wisdom and acquire heavenly wisdom.

Look with me again at James 3:17-18, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”


Now, James lists eight characteristics of wisdom that is from above. These eight things must be present in our lives if we are to be successful at improving our relationships. Let’s look at them,


1.     We must be pure. James writes, But the wisdom that is from above is first pure.” The word translated pure means "clean" or "free from contamination." We must not be contaminated by envy, selfish ambition, or conceit. We must have pure motives for our relationships.

2.     We will be peaceable.  In contrast to worldly wisdom, which produces confusion and strife, heavenly wisdom produces peace. We will not antagonize people and will actively seek to create peace by being peacemakers. Heavenly wisdom doesn't divide people; it brings them closer together. Heavenly wisdom knows what to overlook and knows few things are worth a fight because wisdom is peaceable.

3.     We will be gentle. The word translated gentle means "fair, not insisting on the letter of      the law." We don't overreact when someone messes up. When our spouses make mistakes, if we are considerate of their feelings, we will treat them as we would want to be treated. Gentle means we are mindful of the feelings of others and therefore make allowances for their mistakes.

          4. We will be easy to be intreated. The word translated easy to be intreated means           compliant or submissive. We won't always have to have our way. We won't have a know-         it-all attitude and will respectfully listen to the ideas and opinions of others. We will    listen to suggestions from our spouses and children and we will be open to discussion.

          5. We will be full of mercy. This means we will be full of gracious forgiveness and           therefore won't make a big deal of the mistakes of others. We won't keep bringing up past   mistakes to our mates, children, or friends. We will be willing to love and forgive even           when the problems we face are someone else's fault.

          6. We will be full of good fruits. The phrase good fruits indicates practical actions that           help others. Like the Good Samaritan, when we encounter someone who needs           encouragement, support, or assistance, we will compassionately do whatever we can to           help. What hurting people often need most is a compassionate, listening ear. Heavenly           wisdom is always ready to help those in need.

          7. We will be without partiality. We will not show favoritism and will be free from           prejudice. It is the idea of treating everyone the same. We will treat the custodian with the     same kindness and respect as we do the CEO of the company.

          8. We will be without hypocrisy. We should not be spiritual fakes. People appreciate           honesty and openness and are repulsed by phonies. When we are open and sincere about           our mistakes and weaknesses, people respect and like us. Nothing can improve a           relationship like being open and honest about yourself. Everyone knows you're not           perfect, so don't act like you are.


James concludes this section by writing in verse 18, And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” The word righteousness means doing what is right. If we want to improve our relationships, we must sow seeds of what is right. The Bible teaches we reap what we sow in Galatians 6:7. When it comes to sowing seeds that produce good relationships, we need to remember the truth found in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”


The more we sow seeds to improve our relationships, the more our relationships will improve, but this requires heavenly wisdom. Do you need heavenly wisdom in your marriage, with your kids, your parents, at work, or at school?

Where can you acquire the heavenly wisdom needed to improve your relationships? Remember James 1:5 tells us how to acquire heavenly wisdom. He says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”


To improve your relationships we said, you must avoid worldly wisdom and acquire heavenly wisdom. Let’s start today!



Lesson 9  —>