James 3:14
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
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(14) But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts.—Rather, it should be, bitter zeal and party-spirit. “Above all no zeal” was the worldly caution of an astute French prelate. But that against which the Apostle inveighed had caused Jerusalem to run with blood, and afterwards helped in her last hour to add horror upon shame. The Zealots were really assassins, pledged to any iniquity; such were the forty men “who bound themselves under a curse, saying they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12; see Note there). Some of these desperadoes unluckily escaped the swords of the Romans, and fled to the fastnesses of Mount Lebanon. They were probably the nucleus of a still more infamous society, known in the middle ages as that of the Old Man of the Mountain; in fact, our word “assassin” comes from “Hassan,” their first sheik. Happily for humanity they were at length exterminated by the Turks.

Glory not.Boast not yourselves as partakers of this accursed zeal; behold already what ruin it is bringing on us as a nation and a Church. And it were well to take care even in these milder days of religious factions, that the strife of creeds be wholly different in kind from the old zealot feuds, and not merely in degree. Able only to rend and overthrow, party-spirit will, if it be gloried and exulted in, lay down the walls of Zion “even to the ground.” But “if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy” (1Corinthians 3:17), and the words must be translated much more sternly, “If any man destroy . . .”

Lie not against the truth.—This is not tautology, nor a Hebraism, but of far deeper import. “What is truth?” said jesting Pilate (John 18:38), and, as Bacon remarks in his Essay on Truth, he would not stay for an answer. Probably he put a question familiar to himself, learned in a certain school of knowledge whose wise conclusion was that mankind could not tell; and the inquirer turned away, unwitting that before him stood the incarnate Truth itself. The world of unbelief repeats the careless utterance of the Roman Governor, and holds with him in its new Agnosticism; and to its self-assurance and pride of life He, Who can only be learned in the doing of His will (John 7:17), is alike unknowable and unknown. But the words of the Apostle have a mournful significance for the ignorant of God; and a terrible one for the Christian who knows and sins against the Light. Falsehood is not the hurt of some abstract virtue, or bare rule of right and wrong, but a direct blow at the living Truth (John 14:6), Who suffered and still “endures such contradiction of sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:3). As the fault of Judas was double—personal treachery against his Friend and Master, and a wider attack on Christ, the Truth manifest in the flesh—so in a like two-fold manner we smite at once God and our brother when we speak or act a lie. All faintest shades of falsehood tend to the dark one of a fresh betrayal of the Son of Man if they be conceived against others, while if they be wrought only to shield ourselves, we are. as Montaigne observed, “brave before God, and cowards before men,” who are as the dust of His feet.

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.But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts - If that is your characteristic. There is reference here to a fierce and unholy zeal against each other; a spirit of ambition and contention.

Glory not - Do not boast, in such a case, of your qualifications to be public teachers. Nothing would render you more unfit for such an office than such a spirit.

And lie not against the truth - You would lie against what is true by setting up a claim to the requisite qualifications for such an office, if this is your spirit. Men should seek no office or station which they could not properly seek if the whole truth about them were known.

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].

strife—rather, "rivalry."

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.

Bitter envying; Greek, zeal, which he calls bitter, partly to distinguish it from that zeal which is good, whereas this he speaks of is evil, and though it pretends to be zeal, yet is really no other than envy; and partly because it commonly proceeds from an imbittered spirit. and tends to the imbittering it more.

Strife; the usual effect of bitter zeal, or envy.

In your hearts; the fountain whence it proceeds; or strife in the heart implies a heart propense and inclined to strife.

Glory not; glory not of your zeal, or rather of your wisdom, as if you were so well able to reprehend others, but rather be humbled; what you make the matter of your glorying, being really just cause of shame.

And lie not against the truth; viz. by professing yourselves wise, or zealous, when ye are really neither.

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.

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
Jam 3:14. As meekness belongs to wisdom, so he who has in his heart ζῆλος πικρός and ἐριθεία boasts of wisdom without any right. As this was the case with his readers, James now directly addresses them: εἰ δὲἔχετε] To ζῆλος, zeal,—which is here, as frequently, used in a bad sense,—is added the adjective πικρός for the sake of strengthening it, perhaps with reference to Jam 3:11-12 (Grotius, Pott, Gebser).

ἐριθεία] has in the N. T. the meaning controversial spirit, or, more definitely, partisanship; comp. Romans 2:8; 2 Corinthians 12:20 (see Meyer on both passages); Galatians 5:20; Php 1:17; Php 2:3; in 2 Corinthians 12:20 and Galatians 5:20 ζῆλοι and θυμοί are united together as plurals.

ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν] in contrast with the word of his readers, boasting of their wisdom.

In the apodosis: μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε καὶ ψεύδεσθε κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας] neither the first nor the second verb is to be converted into a participle; certainly κατα in the first verb refers to κατὰ τῆς ἀληθ., and so far already contains the idea of lying, but James designed prominently to bring forward this, and therefore he adds καὶ ψεύδεσθε to κατακαυχᾶσθε. On κατακαυχᾶσθε, comp. chap. Jam 2:13 (see Winer, p. 417 [E. T. 590, note 1]). In κατακαυχᾶσθε the reference is to others, in ψεύδεσθε to one’s own conscience (Lange). In order to avoid the tautology in ψεύδεσθε and κατὰ τ. ἀληθείας, Wiesinger understands by ἀληθεία “truth in an objective Christian sense—the Christian truth, by the possession of which they fancied themselves σοφοί.”[183] But, on the contrary, it is to be considered that that which, logically considered, appears as mere tautology, receives another import, when not only the understanding but also the disposition is recognised as a factor of the construction; so it is here; compare, moreover, Isocrates, de pace, p. 165: διαψεύδεσθαι τῆς ἀληθείας.

[183] According to Lange, the theocratic truth is to be understood which the Jewish zealots professed to protect.

Jam 3:14. εἰ δὲ ζῆλον πικρὸν ἔχετε καὶ ἐριθείαν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν: This makes it quite clear that what has been referred to all along is controversial strife; the bitter use of the tongue which the writer has been reprobating is the personal abuse which had been heaped upon one another by the partisans of rival schools of thought. ζῆλον is mostly used in a bad sense in the N.T., though the opposite is sometimes the case (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11:2; Galatians 1:14); the intensity of feeling which had been aroused among those to whom the Epistle was addressed is seen by the words ζῆλον πικρόν, with the latter word in an emphatic position; they form a striking contrast to πραΰτητι σοφίας. The word ἐριθείαν, derived from ἔριθος “a hireling,” means “party-spirit”.—μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε: the malicious triumphing at the least point of vantage gained by one party was just the thing calculated to embitter the other side; this was a real “lying against the truth,” because such petty triumphs are often gained at the expense of truth.

14. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts] Better, envy and rivalry. The latter substantive, formed from a word which means a “day-labourer”, expresses primarily the temper of competition that characterised the class, and then more generally, faction and party-spirit of any kind. It is significant that the word for “envy” is used by St Luke as specially characterising the temper of the Jews towards the Gentile converts (Acts 13:45), and this, together with what we have seen of the true bearing of ch. James 2:14-26, leads to the conclusion that St James’s warning is specially addressed to those of the Circumcision who displayed that feeling. He is shewing himself not the antagonist, but the supporter of St Paul’s work, condemning the factious spirit which was then, as afterwards at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20), in Galatia (Galatians 5:20), and at Rome (Php 1:15), his chief hindrance. The word “bitter” is perhaps added to “envy” because the Greek word “zeal” was neutral, and admitted of a good meaning.

glory not] The word expresses a relative, not an absolute glorying, a glorying over some one, on the ground of superior privileges. This was, it is obvious, likely to be the besetting sin of the party of the Circumcision in relation to the Gentiles, and was therefore checked by St James, just as afterwards, when the prospect of the rejection of Israel was becoming a certainty, it became, in its turn, the sin of the Gentile converts, and was then checked by St Paul (Romans 11:18).

lie not against the truth] It is clear that if the word “truth” were only subjective in its meaning, as meaning “truthfulness,” the precept would be open to the charge of tautology. We must therefore assume that it is used with an objective force, as the truth of God revealed in Christ. We ask what special truth thus revealed those to whom St James wrote were most in danger of denying, and the answer lies on the surface. They were claiming God as the God of the Jews only (Romans 3:29), denying the brotherhood of mankind in Christ, “lying against” the very truth of which they fancied that they were the exclusive possessors.

Jam 3:14. Ζῆλον πικρὸν, bitter emulation) Emulation is not condemned, when exercised with kindness; nor anger, accompanied with kindness, and proceeding from faithfulness and love.—μὴ, do not) They boast and lie against the truth, who, when they have bitter emulation, still give out that they themselves have wisdom.—μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε) The Alex. and others read μὴ καυχᾶσθε.[45] See App. Crit., Ed ii.

[45] Κατακαυχᾶσθε is the reading of BC. Καυχᾶσθε, of A.—E.

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. James 3:14Envying (ζῆλον)

The word is used in the New Testament both in a bad and a good sense. For the latter, see John 2:17; Romans 10:2; 2 Corinthians 9:2. From it is our word zeal, which may be either good or bad, wise or foolish. The bad sense is predominant in the New Testament. See Acts 5:17; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:20, and here, where the bad sense is defined and emphasized by the epithet bitter. It is often joined with ἔρις strife, as here with ἐρίθεια, intriguing or faction. The rendering envying, as A. V., more properly belongs to φθόνος, which is never used in a good sense. Emulation is the better general rendering, which does not necessarily include envy, but may be full of the spirit of self-devotion. Rev. renders jealousy.

Strife (ἐριθείαν)

A wrong rendering, founded on the mistaken derivation from ἔρις, strife. It is derived from ἔριθος, a hired servant, and means, primarily, labor for hire. Compare Tobit 2:11: My wife did take women's work to do (ἠριθεύετο). Thus it comes to be applied to those who serve in official positions for their own selfish interest, and who, to that end, promote party spirit and faction. So Romans 2:8 : them that are contentious (ἐξ ἐριθείας), lit., of faction. Rev., factious. Also, 2 Corinthians 12:20. Rev., here, rightly, faction.

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