For the seed which one day produces the reward which righteousness brings can only be sown when personal relationships are right and by those whose conduct produces such relationships. (James 3:18; William Barclay's Daily Bible Study)
In this verse, James is talking about a social situation. God's purpose - the fruit that He wants from His way of life, the kind of character that He wants in us - has to be produced in peace. It cannot be produced in war.
Why it cannot be produced in war is obvious. When one is involved in war, he is thinking only of himself, which runs 180 degrees counter to God's nature. God's nature is outgoing. When one is engaged in war, all one is seeking to do is to preserve the self. For God's purpose to be fulfilled to the very best degree, peace is required.
The seed, which one day produces the reward that righteousness brings, can only be sown when personal relationships are right, and by those whose conduct will produce such relationships.
Jesus says that peacemakers will be the children of God, not those who butt others aside, aggressively trying to get to the top, asserting themselves, their will, and their ideas in every circumstance, angling to be the big shot. "Out of my way, buddy. That is my beat." Those people, by implication, will not see God.
This is why God will permit a divorce. Does He not say through Paul in I Corinthians 7:15, "If the unbeliever departs, let him depart"? The believer "is not under bondage in such cases" because "God has called us to peace." God will permit a divorce so that a person can be saved due to the subsequent peace. In a family in which a war rages between a husband and wife, it is possible that God may lose both of them.
When those who butt and disturb the flock are present, the flock will not prosper. The shepherd has to ensure that there is peace, freedom from fear from the outside, freedom from tension within, and freedom from aggravation. (We even use the term "bug," which is what insects do to sheep: They irritate them to no end so they cannot gain weight and are discontented.) The shepherd must also make sure there is freedom from hunger - a congregation, a flock, will prosper if it is being well-fed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part One)
The apostle reveals here the nature of "the bit and the rudder" that control the horse and the ship. It is spiritual wisdom and understanding that descend upon us directly from God above that empowers us to keep our tongue in check. As earthly men, we have no means or strength to control this wild beast that resides in our tongue and expresses itself in our words. But as children of God, endowed with the power of His spirit and wisdom of His character, we can gain control over this member within. Not only that, we can use it in service to His will and purpose. If we examine our words and run them carefully through the filter of the fruit of the Spirit, we stand a far better chance of releasing the fresh waters that give life and restraining the salt waters that cause destruction.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
Righteousness produces peace with its qualities of quietness and assurance, but at the same time, peace provides the proper environment for righteousness to grow. One builds upon the other. A home without peace hinders the development of righteousness. Thus, God allows a Christian to divorce an abusive, unconverted mate (I Corinthians 7:15).
Martin G. Collins
These two verses give direct and specific reasons why peace is such a great benefit toward spiritual prosperity.
"Wisdom" indicates influence of heavenly origin, that is, from God. Its effect on the mind is to make it pure and chaste, not more imaginative or intelligent. Its purpose is to make the person upright, inoffensive, and good, then peaceable, etc. It disposes a person to live at peace with others. By itself, it corroborates Jesus' statement that He is willing and able to give a peace unlike the world's, a state of being not native to man.
If a person is of a pure spirit, then peace tends to follow. First, this occurs because a pure-hearted person is at peace within himself. He is therefore not self-righteously, self-centeredly, and discontentedly seeking to impose his will and way on others to control their lives. Such a person will not induce conflict.
Second, the pure-hearted person will follow Paul's advice, which he gave in two places. Romans 14:19 says, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Hebrews 12:14 adds, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." It is very difficult for people to have conflict with others who will not fight! This does not mean that we should make peace at any cost by denying truth. We can remain faithful to truth without going to war, though it might appear costly at the moment. Jesus—and many others—did it.
James goes on to say that this approach to life's relationships produces the fruit of righteousness. This phrase could mean that what is produced as a fruit is righteousness, but it can also mean the fruit that righteousness produces. The latter is preferable. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit the Spirit produces. The fruit of repentance is the change repentance produces in one's manner of living and attitude. Some of the fruit of righteousness are the qualities James mentions in James 3:17. Righteousness is therefore the seed from which these things grow.
But a seed needs the proper conditions to germinate, grow, and produce fruit. Regardless of how good a seed is, if the conditions are not right, this process will be hindered, and it will bear poorly. The Parable of the Sower and Seed in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 shows this clearly. Peace is the proper condition for the fruit of righteousness, and peacemakers are the green-thumbed gardeners. Growing a good crop demands the right conditions for good seed.
So important is peace to the Christian's spiritual prosperity that God will permit a marriage to be broken by divorce where there cannot be peace. I Corinthians 7:15 says: "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."
Divorce is usually preceded by a fairly long period of contention. It is warfare on a small scale. Living in an environment of warfare right in the home contributes little to growing in the image of the loving God of peace. It forces one to focus on himself, and at worst, it is entirely possible God will lose the person involved in such a contentious circumstance. At the very least, growth will be slow and minimal.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
One way to begin taming our tongues is to speak in meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is knowing at all times where we stand with God, fully realizing who He is and the nature of His power in contrast to ourselves, His creation. Joshua cried out in confidence for the army of Israel to go forward; His confidence was not in himself or his leadership but totally in his awareness of God's purpose in his life, God's law to live by, and God's sovereignty over him. He was, after all, clay in the Potter's hands. If we keep this in mind, we will never have cause to feel better, more righteous, more successful, or more honorable than another.
Meekness is the ability to esteem others better than ourselves and to allow God to use us as He wills. II Timothy 2:20 shows us that God will honor whom He will. To seek honor for ourselves or to feel worthy of honor is a dead end, and it will taint how we communicate to others. We will naturally look down on them, disrespect them, overlook them, and criticize them.
Test: If we have experienced dishonor, perhaps we need to look closely to see where we have dishonored others. We all stand guilty as charged.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
James concludes chapter 3 by describing the wisdom that comes only from Almighty God. It is the bit and rudder by which we can effectively gain control of our speech. Godly wisdom begins in the heart, replacing the self-indulgent human motivations with purity, peacefulness, gentleness, yieldedness, mercy, goodness, fairness, and sincerity. Words that employ these godly attributes contrast to the raging winds that fan flames of war toward total destruction. The apostle does not allow us any time to spend in the middle; our words should be fresh and trustworthy, without the bitter and shocking elements of a sharp tongue.
In Matthew 12:34, Christ says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The real issue is that our words reveal the essence of our hearts. They will tell whether we are motivated by the earthly wisdom of human desire or by the godly wisdom of the fruit of the Spirit. Unkind words reveal an unkind heart, and kind words, a kind heart.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
Wisdom in the Bible has the same general meaning as the English word "skill." In this context, wisdom indicates proficiency, competence, or adeptness at living in such a way to produce the fruits of righteousness. Notice that this wisdom from above that reflects itself in the conduct of God's children is first pure. It is uncontaminated by any of the myriad aspects of carnal, self-centered human nature. It is not peace sought at the expense of righteousness. Hebrews 12:14 clearly says we are to "pursue peace with all men, and holiness." It is not either/or but both. We all need to avoid needless contentions, yet not to the point of sacrificing the truth, compromising principle, or forsaking duty.
This wisdom is also peaceable and, unlike the attitude of the highly competitive, willing to yield. That is, it is not irascible, contentious, angry, or bigoted—driving the wedges of separation deeper—but rather calming, gentle, and tranquil. The heavenly wisdom will accomplish this through a person, not because he is necessarily mediating, but simply because he is projecting the nature of God.
If we are indeed regenerated by God's Spirit, being at peace and making peace will be the rule in our lives. As to the actual mechanisms that we can use to make peace, room for some differences of opinion certainly exists. There can be no dispute, however, that the vocation of every Christian is to make peace primarily through what he himself is. Secondarily, we must strive to secure the conditions and relationships that will make good will, concord, and cooperation possible instead of hatred, strife, competition, and conflict.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing James 3:18:
1 Corinthians 5:11-13
1 Thessalonians 4:1