James 3:14 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

James 3:14, NIV: But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

James 3:14, ESV: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.

James 3:14, KJV: But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

James 3:14, NASB: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

James 3:14, NLT: But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting and lying.

James 3:14, CSB: But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don't boast and deny the truth.

What does James 3:14 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the previous verse, James asked his readers who they thought qualified as wise and understanding. His immediate answer was that wise people live wisely, participating in good deeds with great humility. Now he warns his readers not to lie to themselves. A person should not assume they are "wise" if they carry bitter envy and selfish ambition in their hearts. And certainly, they must not boast about it.

This raises a fair question: why would anyone boast about being consumed with envy and selfish ambition? Think about the kind of career and motivational advice we hear every day. The typical "life coach" will tell you to look around, decide what you want out of life, and make a plan to go get it. The idea is that the successful person is the one who knows what they want, and gets it in the end. That's a common enough approach that it just seems natural to most of us.

The problem, of course, is that such an approach to life is usually built on envy: "I want what they have." It implies that there is benefit to selfish ambition: "I will do whatever it takes to get that for myself." In the next verse, James will describe the characteristics of that kind of so-called-wisdom.

Most of the New Testament writers warn against this worldly approach to life. Thinking in such a short-sighted way contrasts with the life God calls His people to follow. The apostle John defined this worldly wisdom as "the desires [or 'lusts'] of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life" (1 John 2:16).