Friday, June 02, 2006

Wisdom From Above


James 3:13-18

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.

In 13b we see how James tested wisdom. “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” Those who responded to James’ question would have quickly found themselves the object of James’ scrutiny. James did not assess their claim to wisdom on the basis of their IQ, but rather in practical terms. James’ command to us is to demonstrate our wisdom by what we do. We must give a practical proof of our wisdom from our life and our conduct. Our daily living is where our wisdom is played out. Wisdom then is concerned with how we live. I think that we can find a good example of how wisdom plays out in our lives by looking at how the word of God works in our life. In 1:21 we saw that it was through the Word of God that we are saved. In 1:22 we see that when we receive this word it will result in us be doers of the word. Like the word implanted by God in the heart of the believer , the wisdom from above gives birth to deeds, humility and a way of life that grows in understanding. James goes so far as to describe what these deeds are that typify wisdom. It is a life of good behavior with our deeds done in a spirit of gentleness. The good behavior is reference to godly behavior. It is God who is the ultimate judge of good because He is the ultimate standard of good. In order to test our wisdom we must test out actions to see if they conform to the image of God. The other quality that James mentions is gentleness. This is the very opposite of what we normally think about wisdom. Usually people who think of themselves as wise are arrogant about their self-proclaimed wisdom. But this should not be. The word translated here as gentleness could have just as easily been translated as meekness or humility. The Greek word has the idea of power under control. It is a word that was often used to describe a wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner. If we are truly wise then we will understand our shortcomings and willingly submit to the sovereign control of God. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). As was just mentioned, James has earlier admonished believers, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility (prautēs) receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (1:21). Jesus, James’ half-brother, spoke about this same gentleness or humility. Gentleness or humility is to characterize everyone who is a part of God’s kingdom. In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus used this same word, gentleness, to describe Himself saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29).

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