“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.”
(James 3:13-18 NIV)
James moves from the test of the tongue to the test of wisdom. James shows that wisdom and actions come as a matched pair, similar to faith and good deeds. We may say we have wisdom, but do our actions show it?
James contrasts earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom, along with the traits and actions that demonstrate the difference between the two.
James points out that the biggest difference between earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom is the focal point of the individual:
- Is the wisdom inwardly directed, for the benefit of self?
- Is the wisdom outwardly directed, for the benefit of others?
James also looks at the results of both kinds of wisdom:
- Earthly wisdom, fueled by envy and selfish ambition, yields disorder and evil practices of every kind
- Heavenly wisdom, fed by care and concern for others, yields peace, kindness, and righteousness
James makes a special point in verse 17, to say that heavenly wisdom is “… first of all pure…”. The word “pure” means free from every fault, sinless. James shows us God’s character, and the source of this heavenly wisdom, by using this word.
James then goes on to list the “fruit” of heavenly wisdom:
- full of mercy
- good fruit
As we look in the mirror, do we see these evidences of Godly wisdom in our lives? Or do we see any opposites?
James invites us to trade in earthly wisdom (and all the hurt and pain that comes with it) for heavenly wisdom (and the blessings and peace that comes with it).
We may feel like we are giving up a lot to move from earthly wisdom to God’s wisdom, but in reality, we’re grasping for something, running after something that we never possessed in the first place.
Are we to work hard? Absolutely.
Are we to put our heart and soul into what we do? Yes.
James is saying we need to ask why we do what we do, to look at the motivation of our hearts, and see if we seek our own selfish interests, or for the glory of God and the help of others around us.