“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
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The world sees “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” as signs of “wisdom” (verses 14-15). The Apostle Paul lists these two dispositions as “works of the flesh” that will exclude us from Christ’s kingdom in Galatians 5:20, but the kingdom of the world praises and envies people who exhibit these traits. The wisdom of the world is utter foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:13), and James tells us that it is “earthly, natural, demonic”. It is “earthly” (worldly) and “natural” (governed by man’s lower impulses), but it really originates from a much lower realm than the earth. It is “demonic” because we behave more like demons than humans when we are arrogant, selfish and divisive, and its ultimate source is the chief of all demons—Satan himself.
But “the wisdom from above is first pure” (verse 17). First and foremost, God-given wisdom emanates from a pure heart. Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” The wisdom from above is untainted by jealousy and unmarred by selfish ambition. It is pure in heart, holy in thought and unselfish in purpose.
The wisdom from above is “peaceable” or “peace-loving”. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” These are the ones who seek harmony with all people and are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). True wisdom is “gentle” and forgiving when wronged. It doesn’t always demand justice but extends mercy instead. This is a different word than that used in the term “the gentleness of wisdom” (verse 13) which means “meekness”. Gentleness cannot be divorced from wisdom or it ceases to be “the wisdom from above.”
True wisdom is also “reasonable” or “willing to yield”. A wise person is willing to listen to reason and is teachable. Godly wisdom is “full of mercy and good fruits.” It combines compassion with good deeds and does not just dabble in them but is chock “full” of kindness and generosity. The wisdom from above is “unwavering”. Truly wise people trust God and serve Him with undivided devotion and unswerving loyalty, and they do so “without hypocrisy,” but with all sincerity of heart. If the “soil” of our heart is right, we will produce righteous fruit for God (verse 18), and show by our “good behavior” the heavenly wisdom that blesses for an eternity.
Please read James 4:1-6 for tomorrow.
Have a great day!
- Louie Taylor