Godly wisdom stands in stark contrast to earthly wisdom. First, we saw this in James’ admiration of the meekness of wisdom. Then we learned what hellish wisdom looks like and the rotten fruit it produces. Today, we wrap up this 3-part series by taking a look at heavenly wisdom which comes from God. In contrast to worldly wisdom, James says,
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
THE FEATURES OF HEAVENLY WISDOM
James describes God’s wisdom in 7 ways…
- It is pure – The word James uses is related to the word translated “holy.” God’s wisdom is this first; that is, top priority. All the other qualities flows from this one. As God is holy, so His wisdom is holy. Since believers are “called as saints,” set apart ones (Rom. 1:7), the wisdom by which we govern our lives should also be set apart from the world’s.
- It makes peace – The governance of God’s wisdom leads one to be a peacemaker, to relentlessly pursue reconciliation. The gospel that saves us also obligates us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1). A person who has been transformed by the gospel, and thus has been made to be at peace with God through Jesus Christ, will not rest until he or she has pursued reconciliation.
- It is gentle – Gentle means “kindly, forbearing, gracious, reasonable, and considerate.” Reinecker says this “word signifies a humble patience, steadfastness which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and mal-treatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it.” Matthew 11:29 records Jesus’ description of Himself as gentle and humble in heart, and Paul said he displayed this quality to the Corinthians: Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent (2 Cor 10:1).
- It is reasonable – The word can mean “easily persuaded.” It refers to someone who esteems others as more important than themselves and is, therefore, “submissive” (NIV). The New King James as “willing to yield,” and the ESV as “open to reason.” In other words, biblical wisdom strives to guard the unity of God’s people, to listen, be reasonable, and yield to others.
- It is merciful – The believer operating from the base-point of God’s wisdom will be merciful toward others because he has not lost sight of how merciful God has been with him. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (James 5:7). We must not forget the startling words earlier in his book: For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
- It is impartial – A person who is filled with godly wisdom is not one who plays favorites, especially in church. For a clear illustration, read James 2:1-4.
- It is genuine – This describes sincerity. Literally, it is “unhypocritical.” A person walking in God’s wisdom is intent on living a life that is sincere. Sincerity includes the removal of spiritual masks which produces transparency. Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, for being spiritual pretenders who then looked down on those who did not hide their sinfulness. Worldly wisdom is concerned about outward appearance and behavior. True righteousness is concerned about the condition of a person’s heart. And so is God.
Just as hellish wisdom produces rotten fruit, so God’s wisdom produces good and pleasant fruit.
THE FRUIT OF HEAVENLY WISDOM
James teaches that heavenly wisdom produces the good fruit of righteousness. As believers pursue peace in their relationships, the fruit of righteousness. God commands us to strive to be at peace with all—so much as it is in your power—as Romans 12:16-18 teach.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Conflict stems from the sin of pride. Therefore, it is righteous to pursue reconciliation. The person who refuses to be reconciled to another believer needs to place submit himself under the influence of heavenly wisdom, which pursues peace.
King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. But where did his wisdom come from? It came from God. First Kings 3:5 says that when Solomon went to Gibeon to make a sacrifice to the Lord, the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” In reply, Solomon asked for wisdom, and that is what God gave to him.
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:10-12)
What about you? What about me? If God were to say to either of us, “Ask whatever you wish,” what would you ask for? What would I ask for? God is not stingy. He stands ready to pour out His wisdom in staggering abundance if only we will ask.