“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
The immediate context includes verses 13-16, which tell us, if I understand them correctly:
- Quietly let your wisdom and understanding be evident in how you conduct yourself, enduring injury with patience and without resentment (Thank you m-w.com.)
- Do not boast of being such while deceitfully hiding in your heart an attitude of hostility toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage and ambitions that put yourself first and further your own personal gain at the expense of others.
- It is the world and Satan/demons that tells us that is wise, not God.
- The presence of hostility toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage and ambitions that put yourself first and further your own personal gain at the expense of others in a group leads to disruption and immoral actions of all sorts.
Our verse of the day tells us, instead of walking in the wisdom of the world and getting caught up in the strife this dog-eat-dog me-first attitude brings, we should seek, by God’s grace, to act wisely as he defines it: being free from moral fault or guilt (not sinning, but doing what we know is right), not being contentious or quarrelsome, speaking softly, not harshly, being willing to hear an explanation, showing mercy and the other fruits of the spirit, avoiding playing favorites by treating everyone the same, and being genuine and honest all at the same time.
For such wise efforts at making peace, we are promised we shall peacefully increase in righteousness. This may be an inference to how often spiritual growth comes instead through trial and hardship.
One thing in particular stands out to me about this list. It is not often that I find both a commitment to purity and speaking sincerely and the rest of the items on the list in the same person; the old struggle to balance truth and love again. Yet James considers purity and sincerity the bookends to qualities that purity and sincerity are often sacrificed in the name of, upping the ante and issuing a challenge to all of us.
Lord, we are glad this is wisdom that comes from you, because we are weak and that is a tall order we cannot rise to in our own flesh. Strengthen us to walk in your spirit and keep a proper balance. Show us today where we are weakest and any practical steps you would have us take to grow–and grant us by your grace the courage, strength, and will to follow through. Remind us and reveal to us what your priorities are for us this day and let us strive for the goal you have for us, for your glory and the edification of your people. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.