RECOGNIZING GODLY WISDOM
James 3:13-17 NKJV
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
James, in his very straightforward style, presents a picture of what godly wisdom looks like in comparison with earthly wisdom. And in typical James fashion, he pulls no punches.
If anyone claims to be a wise and understanding person, their conduct should be the final proof. Anyone can talk big, but James is all about words and actions agreeing. And James refers to the meekness or the humility that accompanies godly wisdom.
But a person who is walking in God's wisdom will not have bitter envy or self-seeking in their heart. The word for bitter envy is also rendered as jealousy. This is a sharp, zealous desire for someone else's advantage. Rick Warren said it is being resentful of God's goodness to another while ignoring God's goodness to you. Ouch! Not good, no bueno!
Self-seeking is also rendered as strife. This word, according to Strong's dictionary, is used "in a bad sense of those who seek only their own. Contention, strife, rivalry. It represents a motive of self-interest, mercenary interest." Envy and self-seeking are not from above; they are not godly. In fact, they are earthly, sensual, and demonic. James does not leave any room for excuses. Anyone operating in envy and self-seeking is not operating in a godly way, regardless of how they try to make it appear.
James goes on further, and remember he is writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to reveal how to tell when this earthly demonic wisdom is in operation. Confusion and every evil thing shows up. We can hear the strong rebuke coming from James as he warns people who act this way not to boast and lie against the truth.
Verse 17 gives us the checklist for the wisdom that is from above. And this is a great way to discern when someone is walking in God's wisdom. When we read this list, it becomes easy to see that this is not fleshy and selfish. There are some wonderful attributes to God's wisdom, and I am going to include direct quotes from a couple of translations to assist in adding clarity.
Amplified Bible: "But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile]."
Weymouth New Testament: "The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceful, courteous, not self-willed, full of compassion and kind actions, free from favoritism and from all insincerity."
New Living Translation: "But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere."
Lord, thank You for Your wisdom. Help me eliminate all envy and strife and walk in such a way that You are glorified and people around me are blessed.