Are You Open to Reason? (James 3:17)

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Are You Open to Reason? (James 3:17)

Are You Open to Reason?

Richard Hollerman

One of the most attractive characteristics of the winsome Christian is found in James 3:17. In this passage, James describes how “the wisdom from above” is manifested in our life. This is what he mentions: “[it is] first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

This passage, taken from the NASB, says that this spiritual wisdom is “reasonable.” Just what does this mean?

Various translations

The quality that we wish to examine is translated in various ways. Notice a few of these:

“easy to be entreated” (KJV)

“willing to yield” (NKJV)

“willing to yield to others” (Living Bible)

“approachable” (Phillips)

“open to reason” (RSV)

“friendly” (TEV)

“submissive” (NIV)

“considerate” (JB

“open to reason” (NEB)

“accommodating” (NET Bible)

“open to reason” (ESV)

“conciliatory” (Moffat)

“compliant” (Weymouth)

“easily persuade” (Alford)

“willing to yield” (Goodspeed)

“ready to be convinced” (Knox)

The term in the Greek that concerns us is eupeithes, a word that occurs only here in the New Testament. Earle tells us that it is a compound word, from eu (well) and peithomai (be persuaded). (Word Meanings in the New Testament). The ESV Study Bible note says that it may be translated as “willing to yield” or “open to persuasion.”

Gary Holloway says that “considerate and submissive” are words that “point to an attitude that thinks of others instead of self. True wisdom does not insist on its own way but is open to persuasion from others. The wise person is compliant and reasonable, not a know-it-all. He ‘listens carefully to the other instead of attacking him’” (The College Press NIV Commentary: James and Jude). Burdick says that this quality is “the opposite of obstinacy and self-seeking; it is a readiness to yield” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12).

Application

We’ve learned something of the meaning of the Greek term here and how many translators have rendered the quality in James 3:17. How should we apply this to ourselves?

Do you generally insist on having your own way? Do you want others to follow your lead and directions, or are you willing to listen to their reasons for their views and actions? Do you demand that others—your fellow workers, your spouse, your family members—submit to your wishes? Or are you willing to listen and consider their reasons for doing what they do?

Remember, James is saying that the wise person is “willing to yield” and “open to persuasion.” It may be that you have a wiser way of doing things and have a scriptural reason for doing what you do. You don’t need to always yield to others and their views for indeed you may have the better choice. But at least give the other person’s views some consideration. Don’t just assume that you know it all; God has also given wisdom to others and this you should also consider. As we notice in various of the translations cited, be conciliatory, compliant, and willing to yield. Be approachable and open to reason.

During the life of Christ, you will remember that the Pharisees were the very opposite of this virtue. They were not open to reason or compliant. They insisted on their own way, even when that way was wrong. God is not asking you to forget all reason or submit to foolish demands. Not at all. He only asks that we be willing to admit mistakes in reasoning and change our mind, if this is the part of reason.

It is good to know that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). If we insist on our ways, we may be found taking a position that is opposite than God’s ways. Be willing to change if God wants you to do so.

The Lord calls on us to be humble and submissive, the very opposite from the proud and arrogant ways of the world.  He wants us to be willing to admit mistakes and confess sins, something that many are unwilling to do. The ways of the Spirit are opposed to the ways of the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:19-23).

Will you and I commit ourselves to seeking the fruit of the Spirit—including this one—and renouncing the deeds of the flesh? That is the only way of blessing!

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