But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:17 (NKJ)
Have you ever watched To Tell the Truth? It is a television game show where three people who claim to be someone are questioned by a panel of celebrities. One of them is the real person while the other two are impostors. The panelists take turns questioning the people about their subject and then try to guess which of the three people the “truth teller” is. The program concludes with the contest moderator asking the question, “Will the real ***** please stand up?” While this is a harmless game of deception, James finds no humor in doing the same as we search for the true meaning of wisdom.
James methodically unmasks the wisdom impostor by clearly delineating what is wisdom and what wisdom is not”.
One doesn’t normally think of James as a book of wisdom. While generally grouped in General Epistles, James has, however, been called the Proverbs of the New Testament because it is written in the terse, moralistic style of wisdom literature—Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
Today’s scripture is found in the overall context of how inner faith is demonstrated outwardly by the believer. In this case, godly wisdom should be an extension of the believer’s faith walk. James challenges believers who would claim to be wise to, “SHOW IT!”
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! (James 3:13, NLT)
James shares how wisdom can either result in that which is divine or that which is demonic. He does this by contrasting seven characteristics of human wisdom with seven qualities of divine wisdom.
- Human wisdom is described as earthly, unspiritual (sensual), and demonic. Such wisdom spawns jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every kind of evil (James 3:16). It originates from a heart that is “sin-bent” (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9), flawed with personal bias, and focused on self-gratification. Such wisdom is also subject to fierce temptation by the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
- Divine or godly wisdom is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). This type of wisdom (sophia) acknowledges the holy influence of God upon the actions and thoughts of believers. With God as its source (Deut. 4:5-6; James 1:5), wisdom is framed by those attributes demonstrated in His character within His moral qualities of purity, integrity, and love.
We began our series defining godly wisdom as a way of thinking and conduct that is orderly, socially sensitive, and morally upright. It is a way of viewing and approaching life that results in purposeful, God-honoring living (1 Pet. 1:13, 14). Unfortunately, as we look around our city, our nation, and our world, godly wisdom seems to have been abandoned as men and nations do what is “right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25; Prov. 3:7). It is therefore incumbent upon us as believers to demonstrate outwardly the godly wisdom being placed within us as we obediently follow the teachings of God and the leading of His Holy Spirit. Let James’ words become your wisdom battle cry:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13, NIV)
Also read: God’s Moral Qualities
SELAH: Click on the “God’s Moral Qualities” link above and review the attributes of God’s goodness. Meditate on how each quality shapes “godly wisdom”—a way of thinking and conduct that is orderly, socially sensitive, and morally upright. Share your thoughts with us.