James 3:14-16 gives us the recipe for disaster in our lives: refuse God’s wisdom. He shows us the results of this: “disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16b). Verse 17, today’s subject, is the presentation of the opposite. What does it look like when our wisdom comes from God? In typical “James-like” fashion, the answer is straightforward:
“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.”
Just as James asserted that a life of faith results in a lifestyle change (James 2:14-26), so here he remarks that wisdom from above also results in a lifestyle change.
Abraham Lincoln said, “What is morally wrong can never be politically right.” How right our 16th president was! The anchor of righteous living must guide all of our decisions. We can be so guilty of compartmentalizing our lives so we have our “Christian life”, “work life”, and “social life”. As a result, we tend to evaluate our lives based on one of these three spheres. If we’re doing well in these areas—or so we perceive—and in our “Christian life”, then we pat ourselves on the back and move on. James says, “Not so!”.
Look at these changes resulting from heaven’s wisdom:
- Purity: This word means “innocent and moral blamelessness”.
- Peace-Loving: Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
- Considerate: This picks up an Old Testament idea: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
- Submissive: This contrasts the ambition of human wisdom (verse 16). This is not passivity but an act of the will that puts others before ourselves. I recently heard Mike Holmes (host of “Holmes on Homes” on HGTV) say “You get what you give”. How true. Jesus said it like this, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12b).
- Full of Mercy: Jesus said “blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
- Full of Good Fruit: This is tied to “full of mercy” meaning that the mercy in our hearts should produce fruit that resembles what was planted. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16–20).
- Impartial: Paul instructed Timothy, “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism” (1 Timothy 5:21).
- Sincere: Means “being without pretense”. This is a genuine person—not someone who is hypocritical. When James says that Heavenly wisdom produces a life that is sincere it means: a life that is without hypocrisy.
James did not have a theoretical approach to the Christian faith. Instead, he constantly insists that our connection with the Almighty should cause an obvious change in our lifestyle. Paul writes, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Wisdom from above stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom from below. In our so-called “wisdom”, we will only end up in the ditch. With the wisdom of God, we are able to live a life worthy of the risen King of kings and Lord of lords. Seek wisdom from God. He longs to infuse it in you and continue the good work He started in you.