Disclaimer: I really, really love the book of James.
Maybe that’s a bit presumptuous to proclaim, considering that this book is all about living out your faith and not just saying that you believe. So, perhaps I should follow that disclaimer with the fact that on my best days, I’m a hot mess, and I’m a work in progress when it comes to “faith apart from works is dead.” Nevertheless, I’m keeping on.
That said, I had an incredible time in James 3 last night with my husband. Our Life Group has been studying the book of James for the past several weeks, and we’ve been loving the journey. Our time of study last night focused in on the final few verses of chapter 3, the verses all about wisdom.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13 ESV
For starters, wisdom is characterized by meekness…meekness, not weakness. I always wonder why the two so often get confused when they have nothing to do with the other. Meekness is strength or power under control. Meekness is restraint, knowing when to say and do and knowing when not to. That’s powerful. And wisdom operates from meekness.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” James 3:14 ESV
This is what wisdom DOESN’T look like. It’s not bitter, jealous, selfish, boastful, or false. Human wisdom is, but not the wisdom that comes from above. True wisdom is exposed by its underlying motives. Next time you’re after a bit of wisdom, pause long enough to check the motives behind your pursuit.
“This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” James 3:15 ESV
Demonic? Did you catch that, too? How could you not, right? Not only does the wisdom of man pale in comparison to God’s wisdom, but right here in Scripture, God defines it as demonic. Demonic. Make note of that. Anything that isn’t of God would fall into this category. It’s either of Him, or it isn’t.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:16 ESV
Well, isn’t that the truth? Jealousy and selfish ambition breed strife, disorder, chaos, and evil. At its very root rest pride. And if pride were enough to cast Satan and his followers out of heaven, we can assume that it’s not something we want found in us. In our pursuits of wisdom, may our motives be for Christ to be glorified and not us.
“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 ESV
And here we have it: God’s definition of wisdom. Every descriptive of wisdom in this one verse is amazing, yet one stands out to me the most: “Open to reason.” Godly wisdom is open to reason. Don’t you just love that? A wise person always remains in the position of humility and teachability, never having assumed to know everything or to have it all figured out. That is beautiful!
“And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:18 ESV
Peace! If there’s something this hard, hurting, war-torn world needs right now, I’d say it’s peace, and if we, as Christ followers, would just sow peace, look at what we would reap! A harvest of righteousness is hard to imagine in such dark times, but God’s Word says that is what awaits us if we would live in God’s wisdom instead of our own.
I walked away from our study last night with my eyes opened in a new way. There is wisdom in restraint. I’ve walked with the Lord for some time now, and in my flesh, there are some things that I like to think I’ve got figured out, some things that I’m pretty sure of. But then, verse 17:
Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.
Do these words describe me? Do they describe you? Some food for thought for your Thursday.
Melissa Schlies says
Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.–oh that we would all be able to dwell in this state. What a difference it would make. Thank you for sharing your study of James 3
Tiffany Elder says
So much wisdom packed in such a small book of the Bible. I love seeing these nuggets from chapter 3 laid out this way. Thank you for sharing!
Heather Bock says
I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who, for the most part (of course he’s not perfect), embodies the words that describe wisdom in James 3:17. It’s fitting that he’s a philosophy professor. I do not embody these words like he does, but I’m glad God gave me a flesh and blood example!