From the Pastor’s Desk

Marriage Session 2, replacement for tape

If there is to be ANY hope for a marriage, whether it is starting from scratch, or trying to restart from the rubble of years of destructive practices.., you will have to learn to talk to one another, AND learn to talk to one another properly. You will have to talk about and make adjustments for some very hard difficult areas throughout this rebuilding process. You will have to learn to talk about the difficult things without acting in such a manner as to make the situation worse instead of better. To master this necessary tool of reconstruction, you must start talking about things that are non controversial and not charged with emotion. If you continue to fail in this area, there is no hope of moving on to the things that really matter in this marriage. We must learn and use what I have called the “Rules of Engagement”. If you can’t learn and use these rules, any attempt to bring about reconstruction is doomed. Even if your marriage is a “good” marriage, this information and this practice will be beneficial.

James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (NIV) James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

This applies to marriage, also. Don’t be the one who is “going to the teach the other a thing or two!” The Greek says not to “presume” to be the teacher, or to “take to oneself without leave, authority or warrant” as Webster states it. Far better to be the learner, AND even better still to learn together from the Word of God. We will look at this aspect a more in a little while.

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

It is amazing how many Christians have diarrhea of the mouth. They have very little grace in their speech, and virtually no control. They just open their mouth and let it all spew out. It is SO important that we learn to use our words right. This is true of any relationship, whether a marriage or a causal acquaintance. As we learn to control our words and our conversations, we will be able to control the other expressions of our lives, also. As a matter of fact, IF we could be totally proper in our words, we would be men and women enough to control the whole body.

There may be many areas of your marriage that are totally out of control. You have tried everything, and there seems to be no way to bring those areas back where they belong. Well, probably you’ve started working on the wrong areas first. Isaiah 6:5 Then I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged." Isaiah, also, had a life out of control and undone. When he saw his life in light of God’s holiness, he realized that the problem was an out of control mouth, and it was the mouth that God purged.

James 3:3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

Whatever it takes, even as with the bits in the horses’ mouth, we must be in control of our conversation. We must be in control of our words.., NOT our words controlling us. We have to learned the proper conversational skills, even though this area seems to be a very small aspect of the whole problem. Once we have this “small” detail taken care, then, like with the small rudder, we can move through the fierce storms of life to the desired port. If you can control the tongue, THEN you can control the rest of your body and life. You need to start on YOUR speech, not the speech of your spouse.

James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

When the tongue is not controlled, instead of being the agent by which we can control the body or guide it through the storm of life.., the tongue becomes the storm of live. In this situation, James calls it an out of control raging fire. Not just any fire, BUT one set on fire of hell. Not a good thing from which to build a marriage, or any other relationship.

James 3:7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

Almost any other beast can be domesticated, but the tongue cannot be tamed, or trained to do right on its own. You can’t “house break” or “mouth break” the tongue! The tongue cannot be left to itself. The tongue must always be watched and supervised. The tongue must always be kept on a short leash, for it can erupt quickly and with so little effort, and the destruction it leaves in its path, is often non-repairable. It has been said: “The tongue is in a wet place and if we are not always on guard, it slips very easily!”

James 3:9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

James is now going to show us how to control the tongue, and thereby to control our whole being. James is going to talk about TWO kinds of wisdom: (1) Wisdom from above, or spiritual wisdom and (2) Wisdom that is not from above, but is earthly, sensual and demonic. You will probably be surprised at exactly what this wisdom is. It is with the tongue that we express our wisdom, whether it be the wisdom from above or from the earth, which is sensual and demonic. Our conversation will demonstrate which one of these wisdoms are operating within.

Let’s pause in our study of this passage to interject some important thoughts that we need to keep in the forefront of our thinking, and are absolutely vital to rebuilding or building a marriage.

(1) You don’t rebuild a marriage by correcting or teaching your spouse to do right. Remember we are not to take to ourselves the position of teacher, because the teacher receives the stricter punishment. Just because you know the facts does not mean you can or should presume the position of teacher. You can only be the teacher of others through “example”.., OR by “word” only after the other accepts you as their teacher. However, through the flow of unsolicited information, there can be NO teaching. This fact is also good to remember when you are commenting on any situation, whether it be on the street, in S.S. class, after church... ANYTIME!!

(2) You cannot bring about moral change in another person. You can impose moral restraints on another person, under certain circumstances. However, if there is no internal moral change, once a person is away from the restraint, they will not act in a proper or desired manner. If there is no internal moral change, even when the person IS acting in a desired manner because of restraints.., they are not reacting or responding out of love. SO therefore, the relationship would be based only on legalism and not mutual love. When I speak of moral, I’m not referring just to sexual conduct, but the total proper relationship between the husband and wife. (a) Moral is a proper relationship (b) Immoral is an improper relationship. As we will see in our passage, we can operate by means of a wisdom that is demonic. As a matter of fact, if we are not deliberating yielding to and operating with the wisdom from above, we WILL be operating by demonic wisdom. If we are acting by means of demonic wisdom, I would have to classify that type of action as immoral.

(3) Any proper moral change to a relationship must start with you and you alone. You cannot wait to make personal moral change, predicated on the condition that the your spouse must change first.., OR even that they must change. We will see in Eph and I Pet that when your moral relationship is correct, OR even in the process of becoming correct, that proper moral action and attitude will bring pressure to change to the other spouse.... BUT it will not work in reverse.

James 3:14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there.

We MUST pause again and try to establish WHY you want this marriage to change, AND to what do you want this marriage to change into? Do you want your marriage to change to be like Christ.., OR do you want you marriage to change so you will have less discomfort and pressure? Once you have decided why you want your marriage to change, then you need to look at these three verses HONESTLY, and see where and how your action, attitudes and expectations fit in relationship to the truth taught in this passage. Do you really want this marriage to change in such a manner so it will fit the wisdom from above.., OR do you want this marriage to change so it will fit the earthly, sensual, demonic wisdom?!?!?!?

As a general rule, couples have their own ideas why the marriage has gone sour. It usually involves the fact that the other spouse was not doing what they should be doing, AND if the other spouse would do as they should, if that did not correct the situation, it would sure make it a lot better. There might be a measure of truth in all that, BUT God seems to have other ideas. You know, I think I’ll “bet” on God’s ideas. So let’s look at some of the root problems. No marriage has ever been salvaged, or properly built BECAUSE the other spouse changed. Your marriage can only be right when YOU are in a right relationship with God and with your spouse. Now, I warned you when we started that I was not a referee, I’m a teacher. As we study beyond the surface of the text, we see truths that are life changing, IF we but apply them. God’s word is so good at pointing out our need of these truths. If we don’t know that we need to apply a truth, we very seldom give heed to that truth. This passage is a “zinger” when it comes to putting the “finger” on the need.

James 3:14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there.

It tell us in vs 14-16 that... “IF you have ‘bitter envy’ and ‘self-seeking’ ”. You need to take time NOW to check to see if there is even a hint of these things in your life. If “yes”, then first of all, you should not “boast” about it, for in so doing you are “lying” against the truth. The lie: “It’s not my fault! My spouse CAUSED it. I have a right to have these things in my life, look at what I’ve been through!” Next he says that this truth is not from above, nor is it heavenly or spiritual. He continues with the description of what this type of wisdom is... It is: earthly, sensual and DEMONIC. Then James concludes with the fact that if this wisdom is our operating system, there will be the existence of “confusion” and “every evil thing”.

It’s not exactly a healthy thing when a Christian marriage is “earthly”, “sensual” and “DEMONIC”. PLUS, with those conditions in the marriage, there is the presence of “confusion” and “every evil thing”. BOY!!! If all that stuff is present, that is a pretty hard kick in the seat of the pants to any marriage. If the marriage is earthly, sensual and demonic, INSTEAD of heavenly, loving, and spiritual.., then I would say we should work on correcting these BIG problems that God points out... BEFORE we start working on all of those little minor problems, that become so big in your eyes because they disrupt your pleasure and convenience. As a matter of fact, IF we take care of the BIG problems first, most of the little problems will go away on their own. On the other hand, if we keep amplifying the little minor problems, instead of taking care of the big problems, the little minor problems will just keep multiplying until they “sink the boat”. So, let’s see how this marriage stacks up to this test of “earthly, sensual and demonic”. If those things are present, then we know the source of the confusion and every evil thing that is plaguing this union.

First off, we had better know what “confusion” and “every evil thing” means.

Confusion = (Greek) Instability; Denotes a state of disorder, disturbance, confusion, anarchy. The Holy Spirit is pretty good at describing situations, isn’t He? It’s amazing! This description fits every disrupted marriage since A.D. 1 and before. I Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Evil = (Greek) Worthless; Contemptible; Belonging to the lower order of things. There are a number of Greek words translated to our English word evil. This Greek word is used only 4 time in the New Testament. It is not emphasizing the fact of the sinfulness of the acts (even though they are sinful), BUT that those acts are of little value, worthless, have NO redemptive quality, nor are they of any spiritual value. So with an understanding of the meanings of confusion and every evil thing, they seem to be a fair description of a marriage and family gone sour. A union of instability, disorder, confusion, near anarchy is a union in which the end product is worthless and contemptible. This type of marriage certainly could not be sighted as an example of a properly ordered Biblical union.

James 3:14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there.

Now that we have looked at the end result, let’s look back at vs 14 & 15, and have a brief look at the quality of the wisdom that produced the present marriage conditions. Then thankfully, James did not simply point out the negative, but gives us the positive aspect of real living, AND the answer to many of the problems developed within this marriage over the years. As per the normal, definitions are of utmost importance. Bitter = (Greek) Pointed, sharp, pungent. Envy = (Greek) Desire to deprive another of what they have. Similar to improper jealousy. Improper Jealousy desires to have for one’s self the same or same sort of thing as another has. Proper Jealousy desires to have or keep that which belongs to one’s self, but that another has or is trying to acquire.

It is not my purpose to study jealousy at this time. We will spend almost a whole session on jealousy. Jealousy can protect a marriage, or it can deal a death blow to the marriage. If we are to understand the base of the problem, we must have a basic knowledge of jealousy. “Envy” is one side of the coin, and “jealousy” is the other side of the coin. To make it easy for me, I call the one side of this coin improper jealousy, or envy.., and the other side proper jealousy. Envy, in our passage, is the desire to have what the other has, and an attempt to deprive them of what they have. At this point, we are not concerned with whether what the other person has was rightly theirs, or if they obtained properly. It is not just material things that can be envied. Privilege, freedom, status, money etc.- anything can be envied. Envy both wants the other has, and concocts a plan to deprive them of what they have, OR wants to deprive them of the enjoyment of what they have. When you combine that with bitterness, you have a brew that can cause “heartburn” of the worst type for a marriage. Remember our graphic on bitterness-blame-guilt. When that cycle is operating in our lives combined with envy, we think, plan and sometime say and do things that would shame even the most shameless TV Soaps.

The Holy Spirit, through James, adds one more dimension to the whole problem. “if you have ‘bitter envy’ AND ‘self-seeking’ in your heart” Before we look at the definition, let’s see the location. “in your heart” We do not have to produce overt actions to qualify as a recipient of earthly-sensual-demonic wisdom. We only have to have it in our heart. Proverbs 23:7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As a general rule, if these things are in our hearts for a while, they usually show up as actions through “confusion and every evil thing”. Matthew 15:18 "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

Self-seeking [Strife] = (Greek) Causing division (“factious”); Denotes ambition, self-seeking, and rivalry; Self-will being an underlying idea in the word; Has the meaning of “seeking to win followers by means of factions,” A faction is the fruit of envy. This Greek word translated here “self-seeking” is translated sometimes as “strife”. Rightly so. Because it is seeking to gain for self by means of this strife what the other has, or what the self-seeker THINKS the other has. When these things are in the heart, we seek what the other has with bitter vindictiveness, and we attempt to gain or keep the spoil through rivalry and by causing division. In this manner, one feels that they can become the victor, and somehow subdue the other spouse. After all, if I’m in control, all the problems will be solved.... so we think. From such distorted twisted thinking, couples feel that somehow if they win.., then the marriage will be what they thought it should have been in the first place. Gaining the upper hand, or getting what the other has, or depriving the other, etc. is just the opposite of a biblical marriage. In a Biblical marriage, we become ONE in Christ, not victors in conquest.

The first and foremost problem here is not that one or both are not receiving from this marriage what they think they should.., BUT that two Christians are operating their lives in an earthly, sensual and demonic manner, and teaching their offspring to operate in the same manner. Often you or your offspring don’t even know the source of these actions. The first and most important action you need to take is, individually, to bring your life, thoughts, actions, etc. in line with godliness.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

We are supposed to operate by and through the wisdom from above. So let’s see what that wisdom looks like.

Pure = (Greek) Free from defilement; Not contaminated. From the root that means pure enough to approach the gods and is often translated holy. This word, as used by the Greeks, had a very narrow use at the time of the writing of James. It described the moral purity which alone could approach the gods. True wisdom comes to and from a mind and heart that has been so cleansed of all ulterior motives, from self-seekingness, and is pure enough see and demonstrate God’s essence of Holiness.

Peaceable = (Greek) Denotes peaceful Bringing peace with it; Salutary; Pacific. Salutary = (Webster) Producing a wholesome, corrective and beneficial effect. Pacific = (Webster) Tending to lesson conflict while promoting tranquillity; Characterized by mildness of disposition or temper; Having a soothing effect or appearance. This is a very special word! It is used only twice in the New Testament, here and in Heb 12:11. When this word was used in reference to men, it meant “right relationships between man and man, and/or between man and God”. Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. True wisdom will always bring spiritual men closer to one another and closer to God. This closeness is not brought about by compromise of good with evil or overlooking wrong, but by enhancing a right relationship between God and man through the peace that only comes from God. In life we must choose to make the object and desire of our life the same as the will of God. If we choose our own desires, we have thereby separated ourselves from our spouse, our fellow-man and from our God.

Gentle = (Greek) Denotes seemly, fitting, equitable, fair, moderate, forbearing; Not insisting on the letter of the law; It is an expression of consideritness that looks “humanely and reasonable at the facts of a case”. This Greek word is only used 5 times in the New Testament. Of all the Greek words in the New Testament, this is the most untranslatable into English. Aristotle defined it as that: “Which is just beyond (in the sense of being better than) the written law”..., and as; “Justice and better than justice”..., and as; That “which steps in to correct things when the law itself becomes unjust”. A gentle man or a gentle woman knows: (1) When it is actually wrong to apply the strict letter of the law (2) How to forgive when strict justice gives him a perfect right to condemn (3) How to make allowances (4) When not to stand upon his rights (5) How to temper justice with mercy (6) To remember that there are greater things in this life than rules and regulations - (Adapted from book by William Barclay). Real wisdom is the ability to extend to others the kindly consideration we would want to receive from them under the same set of circumstances.

Willing to Yield = (Greek) (1) Ever ready to obey; (2) Easy to persuade, not in the sense of be weak or easily swayed, but in the sense of NOT being stubborn and being willing to listen to reason and appeal; Compliant i.e. One who is easily approached on a matter without retaliation or condescension. The context would suggest that the second meaning of the word is the proper meaning for this passage. Again, there is no suggestion of caving-in on principle or letting go of that which is necessary. Our attitude must be one of being easily approached, free of stubbornness, ready to listen and lovingly evaluating each opinion and suggestion, carefully protecting the dignity of each member of this body. Others should never wonder, “Do I dare approach them now. Will their mood be right, or will they snap at me, put me down or ignore me?”

Mercy = (Greek) The outward manifestation of pity. It assumes the need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it; Kindness or good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.

Full = (Greek) Signifying to measure, hence conveys the sense of having full measure; Replete or to be more than full.

Fruit = (Greek) Made up of: To seize + To take to oneself + To lift or raise. That which is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism; The visible expression of power working inwardly and invisible, the character of the fruit is evidence of the character of the power producing it. The Bible tells us that the visible expression (the fruit) of hidden lusts are the Works of the Flesh.., that is the “character of the power producing it”. The Bible also tell us that the visible expression of the invisible Holy Spirit is the fruits of the spirit... that is the “character of the power producing it”. Our outward manifestation or actions must be from an overflow of the mercies of God within our lives. Our actions must be characterized by God’s mercy not simply by acts of condescending pity.

[Without} Partiality = (Greek) Not wavering; Not vacillating; To choose a course and abide by it; To be totally committed; To be absolutely faithful. Without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty; Not fictitious. One who is partial has not set a clear course based on fact. Instead, he waits to see which way the “wind blows” before he is willing to move forward. A partial person is easily moved from one position to another by flattery, fame, sympathy, pressure, circumstances, etc. A partial person is a double-minded person, primarily concerned with personal image and comfort. Our course must be set by carefully considering the facts, and must be followed with total commitment and faithfulness without vacillating to accommodate the whims of “Favor Givers”.

[Without] Hypocrisy = (Greek) Negative form; Signifies unfeigned; Not a pose; Without dissimulation; Never acts a part to gain its own ends.

[Uu-}Feigned = (Webster) To cause (oneself) to appear (as he is not), [such as he feigned himself to be sick]; To assert or relate as true; To create or invent fictional representations (of oneself). [Not a-}Pose = (Webster) To put or set in place or in a given position; To assume a given attitude or character with a view to deceive or impress. [Without} Dissimulation = (Webster) To hide under a false appearance [As a politician he was not good at dissimulating].

Hypocrite = (Greek) An actor under an assumed character.

Hypocrisy = (Greek) Primarily denotes a reply, an answer; Play-acting, as the actors spoke in dialogue; Pretense. True wisdom must not attempt to present, as truth, that which is not true in order to create in the minds of others a fictional representation. True wisdom must not take on a character or attitude with the intent to deceive or impress in order to gain its own ends.

There are the proper “Rules of Engagement”! You need to study these often, along with the context which we have looked at today. Ask yourself, BEFORE you speak, am I using the wisdom of the earth which is sensual and demonic.., OR am I using the wisdom from above which is the fruit of righteousness sown in peace by peace makers. Some might say, “But that would slow our conversation down, way too much.” AH!! Now wouldn’t that be nice?!?!? James 1:19 Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

The “key” to building or rebuilding a proper marriage IS NOT...: Trying to act like a good husband or wife.., BUT learning to be a spiritual husband or wife. Then if and when both are spiritually sound and growing, each will have the resources to be a good husband or wife.., AND you can NEVER be a good husband or wife without these spiritual resources.

Yes, this will take time.., and some suffering, some heartaches, some tears, some patience, some long-suffering.., AND a few of the other aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit, also. It will be worth it, but you both have to be willing to learn to live the spiritual life. If you are not willing to live the spiritual life, HOW do you expect to have a spiritual marriage??

Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Christ was able to suffered greatly because He saw us as a finished product. Knowing that we would someday be like Him brought joy enough to allow Him to endure the suffering. Likewise, seeing what can become of this shipwrecked marriage... will give you joy enough to suffer through the rebuilding process.

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

>>>> Assignment

1. Keep checking blame level for another two weeks

2. Study James 3:1-4:1 each day for a month using notes provided, plus make some of your own

3. Keep setting time aside to talk about non-emotional matter applying the “Rules of Engagement”. Keep increasing the time spent in these sessions

© Clyde White

This page is maintained by