James 3:17-18 (NIV)
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Our Verse of the Day focuses on the wisdom we all need for daily living. We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (Cf. James 1:5) But James also indicates that we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God versus the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect. In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, let us look at the surrounding context:
James 3:13-18 (NIV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Here we can see the challenge that our lives should emulate the character of our Lord Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider. He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”. Then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” To further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God. I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:
Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is described as earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart. James goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world. Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:
Pure (i.e., seek holiness and self-control)
Peace-Loving (i.e., seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)
Considerate (i.e., seek the good of others above themselves)
Submissive (i.e., not only to God but to each other)
Full of Mercy (i.e., readily forgiving)
Full of Good Fruit (i.e., acts of service and compassion)
Impartial (i.e., righteous judgement; unbiased)
Sincere (i.e., genuine; unpretentious, faithful)
I think we can infer from these “distinctions” in the source of wisdom what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm is inflicted others. Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live; and I believe that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).
No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it. And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter – parsing out the same contrasts as James:
Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)
You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
My friends, my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others. This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus. So, I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding; so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block (an offense) and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ~ 1 Corinthians: 1:18-25