|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:13-18 These verses show the difference between men's pretending to be wise, and their being really so. He who thinks well, or he who talks well, is not wise in the sense of the Scripture, if he does not live and act well. True wisdom may be know by the meekness of the spirit and temper. Those who live in malice, envy, and contention, live in confusion; and are liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. Such wisdom comes not down from above, but springs up from earthly principles, acts on earthly motives, and is intent on serving earthly purposes. Those who are lifted up with such wisdom, described by the apostle James, is near to the Christian love, described by the apostle Paul; and both are so described that every man may fully prove the reality of his attainments in them. It has no disguise or deceit. It cannot fall in with those managements the world counts wise, which are crafty and guileful; but it is sincere, and open, and steady, and uniform, and consistent with itself. May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy shown in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abounding in our lives, prove that God has bestowed upon us this excellent gift.
Verse 14. - Bitter envying, Ζῆλος in itself may be either good or bad, and therefore πικρόν is added to characterize it. Bishop Lightfoot (on Galatians 5:20) points out that "as it is the tendency of Christian teaching to exalt the gentler qualities and to depress their opposites, ζῆλος falls in the scale of Christian ethics (see Clem. Romans, §§ 4-6), while ταπεινότης, for instance, rises." It may, perhaps, be an incidental mark of early date that St. James finds it necessary to characterize ζῆλος as πικρόν. Where St. Paul joins it with ἐριθείαι and ἔρις there is no qualifying adjective (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20). (On the distinction between ζῆλος and φθόνος, both of which are used by St. James, see Archbishop Trench on 'Synonyms,' § 26.). Strife (ἐριθείαν); better, party spirit, or faction (cf. Romans 2:8; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3). The A.V. "strife" comes from a wrong derivation, as if ἐριθεία were connected with ἔρις, whereas it really comes from ἔριθος, a hired laborer, and so signifies
(1) working for hire;
(2) the canvassing of hired partisans; and
(3) factiousness in general (see Lightfoot on Galatians 5:20). Glory not; i.e. glory not of your wisdom, a boast to which your whole conduct thus gives the lie.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts,.... Though these may not be expressed by words, or actions: envy at the happiness of others, whether at the external blessings of Providence, as riches and honours, or at the internal endowments of their minds, as their wisdom and knowledge, their parts and abilities, is a root of bitterness in the heart, which bears wormwood and gall, and produces bitter effects in the persons in whom it is; it embitters their minds against their neighbours and friends; it is rottenness in their bones, and slays and destroys those who are so silly as to be governed by it; and also in the persons the objects of it; for who can stand before it? and strife in the mind, or an intention to strive end quarrel with others, who are the objects of envy, is very sinful, and of pernicious consequence: and if these be fomented and cherished in the minds and breasts of men, though they may not outwardly show themselves, yet
glory not; let not such boast of their being Gnostics, wise men, and endued with knowledge; they are far from deserving such a character; and such boasting is contrary to truth, yea, is lying against it, as follows:
and lie not against the truth; for, for a man to assert himself to be a wise and knowing man, and yet cherishes bitterness in his heart, and quarrelling and contention in his mind, arising from envy, at the equal or superior knowledge of others, he lies both against the truth of God's word and his own conscience, which condemn such things as ignorance, folly, and madness.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. if ye have—as is the case (this is implied in the Greek indicative).
bitter—Eph 4:31, "bitterness."
envying—rather, "emulation," or literally, "zeal": kindly, generous emulation, or zeal, is not condemned, but that which is "bitter" [Bengel].
in your hearts—from which flow your words and deeds, as from a fountain.
glory not, and lie not against the truth—To boast of your wisdom is virtually a lying against the truth (the gospel), while your lives belie your glorying. Jas 3:15; Jas 1:18, "The word of truth." Ro 2:17, 23, speaks similarly of the same contentious Jewish Christians.
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