Practical Wisdom from Jesus’ Little Brother
“13 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. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:13-18 NIV
It is interesting that those who have wisdom, according to James, are not those who know the most information, have gained the highest degrees, or have memorized the most Bible verses, but are rather those who live their lives according to the Scripture and show their good lives through deeds done in humility.
In James 3, the baby brother of Jesus continues to make some bold arguments that wisdom is found in those who choose not to be bitter, arrogant, or boastful. Bitterness, arrogance and boastfulness, by the way, are the exact opposite from how James describes humility and wisdom. “Wisdom” that harbors bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, boastfulness, or denies the truth, according to James, is not only earthly and unspiritual, but is also demonic.
As I read this, it’s important to remember that when James wrote this letter, he was writing to the church. He wasn’t speaking to non-Christians, he was talking to the church. It is sad to me that there are people within the church who we think have “wisdom,” yet choose to harbor bitterness – because of a time or times they have been hurt in the church by others. Others within the church that seemingly possess great wisdom, but have a selfish ambition in their hearts – wanting their ministry to gain more people or influence because it makes them feel successful or better about themselves – when our hearts should instead long to be faithful to Christ. There are others still who boast about how they have been wronged by the church or by their church leadership. While their hurts may be valid and legitimate, James points out that it is still in our control to be sure that we live good lives. While we have a tendency to justify having this type of “earthly, unspiritual” wisdom, James takes it a step further. He says it is demonic. James doesn’t give us room as believers to be victims of our circumstances or culture. That, he points out is “demonic.” When we submit to being a victim of our circumstances, James says that we submit to demonic wisdom. It is still in our control to live with good deeds. It is still in our control to live with humility.
To James, Godly wisdom is not head knowledge. It is practical application of the Word of God revealed in our everyday lives. James says that Godly wisdom is:
Peace-loving – Godly wisdom God loves peace. Someone who has Godly wisdom is not quarrelsome or divisive. People who exercise Godly wisdom encourage unity and speak life within the church.
Considerate – James reminds us that Godly wisdom is also considerate of others. People who exercise Godly wisdom are not only concerned with themselves or their own needs. They consider the needs of others.
Submissive – A submissive attitude is not equivalent to an attitude of passivity and being a pushover. An attitude of Biblical submission is instead an attitude of trust. Trust in God. Trust in leadership. Trust in spouse. A person who has Godly wisdom is one who operates from a submissive attitude.
Full of mercy – Those who operate from Godly wisdom, James tells us, are people who are full of mercy. They are quick to forgive and generous in their love for others.
Good fruit – Godly wisdom HAS good fruit. If we are operating with Godly wisdom, there will be good fruit in our lives… whether now or later.
Impartial – The New Living Translation says it this way, “It (wisdom that comes from Heaven) shows no favoritism” James taught earlier in his letter about the importance of not favoring those who have more money than those who don’t. Here he reinforces that people who exercise Godly wisdom don’t show favoritism toward those whom appear most attractive to the world.
Sincere – Godly wisdom is sincere. It is not disingenuous. It is not self seeking. It isn’t about a self-centered agenda. Someone with Godly wisdom is someone who is sincere in living out their faith in Christ.
Holy Spirit I long to grow in Godly wisdom. I don’t want to be seen as wise according to the world, but according to Your word, Your heart, and Your Spirit. Empower me to live according to Your word. In Jesus’ name…amen.