Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3: 13-18
I’m with those who believe this writer James is the leader of the early Jerusalem church and the half-brother of Jesus — tough duty on both fronts. He is not speaking abstractly about wisdom like it’s Mount Rushmore, but about the messy application of truth to all the confusion of human relationships. The “earthly” wisdom he talks about is the wisdom of the marketplace, of politics, of the law, of science, of media, and of education. It looks wise enough from the outside, but has the hidden flaws of “envy and selfish ambition”, which means you can only trust it so far. But the “wisdom that comes from heaven” is purified of those prideful problems. Look at that list of nine characteristics of Godly wisdom in 17. Do you know anybody like that? Remotely? For example, ever thought of submissiveness and consideration as qualities of wisdom? God does. One of the reasons we read the Scriptures is to understand what God means by words we use all the time. Meditate on these 9 qualities of heavenly wisdom and look for a chance to deploy a couple of them today. Who knows what you’ll “reap.”
Lord I admit it: my ‘wisdom’ is contaminated by envy, selfishness and ambition. I accept your very different definition of wisdom and will strive to be more wise in those ways today. Amen.