His word for zeal is zēlos. Zēlos need not be a bad word.
The word he uses for selfish ambition is eritheia...
It originally meant spinning for hire and was used of serving women and then it came to mean any work done for pay. Then it came to mean any work done for pay. Then it came to mean the kind of work done solely for what could be got out of it. Then it entered politics and came to mean that selfish ambition which was out for self and for nothing else and was ready to use any means to gain its ends.
A scholar and a teacher is always under a double temptation.
(i) the temptation to arrogance.
They are used to being listened to and to having their words accepted. All unconsciously they tend, as Shakespeare had it, to say, "I am Sir Oracle, And when I open my lips let not dog bark!" --Shakespeare
One of the most difficult things in the world is to argue without passion and to meet arguments without wounding.
We may find in this passage four characteristics of the wrong kind of teaching.
(i) It is fanatical. ...unbalanced violence rather than reasoned conviction.
(ii) It is bitter. ...regards its opponents as enemies...
(iii) It is selfishly ambitious. ...victory of its own opinions than in the victory of the truth.
(iv) It is arrogant. ...pride in its knowledge rather than humility in its ignorance.
3.15- 16 The Wrong Kind of Wisdom
(i) earthly. It measures success in worldly terms; and its aims are worldly aims.
(ii) natural man.
the soul (psuche) is the physical life which we share with the beasts...
James is saying that the wrong kind of wisdom is no more than an animal kind of thing;
It produces the kind of situation which the devil delights in, not God.
instead of bringing people together, it drives them apart. ...to disturb personal relationships.
3. 17-18 The True Wisdom (1)
James uses eight words to describe this wisdom, and every one has a great picture in it.
pure enough to approach the gods.
...the right ritual cleansings.
But as time went on the word came to describe the moral purity wich alone can approach the gods.
...the true wisdom is able to bear his very scrutiny.
(ii) eirēnikos [YLT, KJV, NASB, NKJV, ESV, WUEST, TNIV, NET--peaceable; NIV84, TNIV, NLT--peace loving]
Eirēnē means peace, and when it is used of men the basic meaning is right relationships between man and man, and between man and God. ...right relationships.
There is a cruel wisdom which takes a delight in hurting others with clever, but cutting, words.
(iii) epieikēs [YLT, KJV, NASB, NKJV, ESV, NLT, NET--gentle; WUEST--sweetly reasonable; TNIV--considerate]
Of all Greek words in the New Testament this is the most untranslatable.
...the man who knows when it is actually worn to apply the strict letter of the law.
He knows how to make allowances, when not to stand upon his rights, how to temper justice with mercy, always remembers that there are greater things in the world than rules and regulations.
3.17,18 The True Wisdom (2)
(iv) Here we must make a choice between two meanings. [YLT, KJV--easily entreated; , NASB--reasonable; ESV--open to reason; NKJV, NLT--willing to yield; NIV84, TNIV--submissive; WUEST--satisfied with less than its due; NET--accommodating]
(a) Eupeithēs can mean ever ready to obey.
(b) Eupeithēs can mean easy to persuade.
...in the sense of not being stubborn and or being willing to listen to reason and to appeal.
not too rigid...knowing when wisely to yield.
(v) We take the next two terms together. ...full of mercy (eleos) and good fruits.
Eleos is a word which acquired a new meaning in Christian thought. The Greeks defined it as pity for the man who is suffering unjustly...
(a) In Christian thought eleos means mercy for the man who is in trouble even if the trouble is his own fault. Christian pity is a reflection of God's pity...
(b) ...eleos means mercy which issues good fruits, that is, which issues in practical help.
(vi) adiakritos, undivided
This means that it is not wavering and vacillating.
There are those who think it is clever to never make one's mind up about anything.
...wisdom is based on the Christian certainties...
(vii) anupokritos, without hypocrisy.
...honest, never pretends to be what it is not; and it never acts a part to gain its own ends.
...the seeds which b ring the rich harvest can never flourish in any atmosphere other than one of right relationships between man and man.
That is to say, nothing good can ever grow in an atmosphere where men are at variance with one another. A group where there is bitterness and strife is a barren soil in which the seeds of righteousness can never grow and out of which no reward can ever come. The man who disturbs personal relationships and is responsible for strife and bitterness has cut himself off from the reward which God gives to those who live his life.
Barclay, William. The Letters of James and Peter. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976. 91-98. Print.
Barclay's commentaries are not always theologically conservative and/or evangelical but they do contain some of the best cultural and historical insights available as well as some excellent Greek word studies. Barclay did not hold orthodox views concerning such non-negotiable topics such as the virgin birth of Jesus, the deity of Jesus, the way of salvation, eternal judgment, et al. A balanced evaluation of Barclay's theological aberrations is found here* and the cautious student is advised to read this review before utilizing his commentaries. ---preceptaustin.org