“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”—(James 3:17).
As we examine our own society, it becomes clear that we have an infatuation with celebrities. Newspapers and television stations are quick to report on the issues and opinions of famous people, even if these people have no discernible expertise on the positions that they espouse. All too often, the society at large equates fame with knowledge and celebrity with wisdom.
While at times it certainly may be true that wisdom has led a person to fame or fortune, this wisdom is not necessarily a gift from God. Rather, it could be that the use of earthly wisdom has led to such temporal success. This earthly wisdom is sometimes characterized by ungodly jealousy and selfish ambition, and it ultimately results in “every vile practice” (James 3:14–16).
In contrast to this “earthly” wisdom, James tells us that we must look for the “wisdom from above” (v. 17). Several things are noteworthy about this wisdom. First of all, it results from true faith. James told us in 1:5–8 that if we lack such wisdom we must ask God for it in faith without doubting His promise to give it to us.
Secondly, like true faith, heavenly wisdom demonstrates itself by means of good works. Authentic faith responds to the trials of life with obedience to the “royal law” (2:14–26). Likewise, true faith does good works in the “meekness of wisdom” (3:13).
Thus we can see how faith and wisdom are intimately connected. Today’s passage makes this even clearer in its description of heavenly wisdom. True faith and heavenly wisdom are both pure (1:27; 3:17). Verse 17 also tells us that heavenly wisdom is marked by peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, impartiality, sincerity, and other good fruits. These things are also characteristics of authentic faith (see 1:19; 2:1; 2:13; 2:26; 3:10).
These connections make it clear that if we have true faith we will also have godly wisdom. Like faith, this wisdom may be immature at first but it will grow over time. Our wisdom will inform our faith, and our faith will move us to always seek heavenly wisdom so that we may live rightly and peaceably before the face of God (v. 18).
Even those with great faith sometimes feel like they are not very wise. However, we have seen that if true faith must manifest itself in good works then so too must godly wisdom be present even if this wisdom is immature. Today’s passage lists some things that characterize godly wisdom. Does your life exhibit these traits? Ask God to help you grow in them and then do what you can to bring peace to those around you.
Passages for Further Study
Lev. 19:17 Prov. 3:30; 12:20 Matt. 5:9 Acts 15:1–21
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