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Today, we are taking a second look at James 3.13-18, because there is no way to capture the insights of James in this passage with one blog article. Today, we explore the wisdom from above or God’s wisdom.
James 3.13-18 – Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
The Wisdom “Package”
If you were to go to a sacred store and purchase a parcel of wisdom, what would you get? Let’s unwrap the “wisdom” package and see what is there.
— Pure – The first word to describe God’s wisdom is “pure.” Wisdom that comes from God will make us pure and will allow us to better see God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5.8).
The purity of God’s wisdom is contrasted with the double-minded thinking of wisdom from below. The double-minded person does not fully trust God and only relies on God when every other option of our sensual or “own best thinking” is exhausted.
The pure-wisdom-person goes to God for direction at the very moment God’s wisdom is needed.
— Peaceable – When we fully rely on God for direction, he provides us with his peace. Isaiah wrote, “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Don’t miss how peace and trust are related in this verse.
Not only does God’s wisdom give us peace, it also makes us peacemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 6.9).
— Gentle and Willing to Yield – One of the hallmarks of God’s wisdom is a willingness to yield our self-interest to consider the concerns of another person. I have combined this aspect of God’s wisdom with “gentle,” because the gentle or humble person is most apt to embrace a wise way of living that is willing to see the world from another person’s point of view.
— Full of Mercy – Jesus included people who were normally excluded. He lifted up those who were put down by society. When he did this, he frequently was criticized by the religious establishment. Jesus could often point to the changed lives of outcasts and say, “Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7.35).
God’s wisdom in our lives will produce a wisdom that is merciful, and one that includes and accepts all people.
— Without Partiality or Hypocrisy – God’s wisdom does not produce play actors who favor one kind of person over another. Rather, God’s wisdom makes us genuine and able to see the value of everyone.
A Picture of Wisdom
James began the topic of wisdom with these words, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom” (verse 13).
He ended his message of wisdom like this, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (verse 18).
The wise person experiences the good life, a life that has received the “gifts” of wisdom mentioned above. This kind of wise person is like a farmer, who sows seeds of righteousness and peace among others.
The “Wisdom” Store
As you well know, there is no wisdom store where we can pick up a pound or two of wisdom. However, God has given us his Holy Spirit to be our counselor, advocate and guide. You may have been reminded of the fruit of the Spirit, while were reading what James said about wisdom.
Paul wrote about the kind of life that the Spirit produces in people. He said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). Looking at the list attributes of wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit, there are clear similarities, because the Spirit is the one who gives both the fruit and the wisdom we need.
God does not expect us to produce the fruit of the Spirit or the attributes of wisdom on our own.
Please imagine this. A man is walking by a vegetable garden and hears something that sounds like a groan. He turns, only to hear a voice from a tomato vine. It says, “What’s wrong with you? What are you looking at?”
The man looks around, thinking someone is playing a prank on him, but there is no one there.
Then, he hears the voice again. It says, “Yeah, I’m talking to you. What’s wrong with you?”
The man looks around for a hidden camera and finally says, “I thought I heard groaning and I stopped to see what’s happening.”
“Right,” said the voice from the vine. “You don’t know how hard my life is. I am struggling and straining with all my power to produce a couple of beautiful, ripe tomatoes for my master.”
“I see,” replied the man, thinking that this was the strangest conversation he’d ever experienced.
Before he could speak again, the vine said, “Besides producing tomatoes, I also have to figure out a way to make some onions just because my master wants to have them on his hamburger.”
The man kneels down to whisper to the vine. He says, “Listen, silly vine. You don’t have to struggle to produce a tomato. All you have to do is remain connected to the vine and you will get all of the tomatoes you need.” End of story.
There is an actual point to this silly story. When we read a list of the attributes of wisdom or the fruit of the Spirit, it is tempting to say, “I really need patience or gentleness,” or some other item. Then, we go about trying to obtain that part of wisdom or character of the Spirit.
Like the tomato vine, we may attempt to struggle and strain, using all of our resources to produce this aspect of our character. If the man in the garden were to kneel down and whisper to us, he would give us the same advice that he gave to the vine. Just stay connected to the vine and you will produce fruit.
Possibly, you recognize Jesus’ words here. Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.4-5).
How Abiding Works
How can we live in an abiding relationship with Jesus?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an excellent example of how abiding works. The story of Jesus’ birth and Mary’s reaction is a good picture of how to abide in a relationship that produces wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit.
(1) Mary was told that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her life in the birth of her son.
Luke 1.35 – The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”
The power of the Holy Spirit overshadows everyone who is seeking to abide in a relationship with Jesus. He is the One who will produce the fruit of love, joy, peace and more. He is the One who will give us the pure, peaceable, gentle, etc. wisdom from above.
It may be well to picture the Spirit as a shadow over you, going with you throughout the day to give you everything you need in life.
(2) Mary’s response was simply to submit to the power and direction of the Spirit.
Luke 1.38 – Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary was conscious of the Spirit’s presence in her life. She lived a life of simply accepting what the Spirit (who was always overshadowing her) allowed into her life. She assumed the role of a servant, who was willing to do according to the direction of the Lord.
If we follow Mary’s example, we will live in an abiding relationship with Jesus through the Spirit. We can count on wisdom from above and the fruit of the Spirit becoming more and more evident in our lives.
Dear God, we are in awe of you. You are willing to give us your Spirit to live with us and to produce in us both your wisdom and the fruit of your Spirit. We praise you and say with Mary, here I am. I am your servant.