God’s wisdom reflects God’s Character and furthers God’s purposes. If our lives are marked by selfishness and envy, then we are relying on the wisdom of the world, and will ultimately invite ruin on ourselves and others. But true wisdom is revealed in mercy and kindness because it is these things that bring forth the peace that can only come from God’s Kingdom.
And we pray:
Lord, the world tells me to pursue success, to move with ambition toward personal gain, power, and wealth. But I seek to walk in the ways of Your wisdom. Give me the wisdom to sow mercy and kindness, to be a conduit of Your peace. Teach me to live as one sent on behalf of Your Kingdom, so that others may see Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In this passage, James has been describing the so-called-wisdom of the world. It’s not pretty. Typical human philosophy is driven by envy and selfish ambition, and the result is all the disorder and evil we see in the world. Putting ourselves ahead of all others means creating billions of contradictory goals, and making excuses for hurting other people in order to get what we want.
Here, in verse 17, James describes the characteristics of the wisdom from heaven. This is God’s wisdom. This is the wisdom of those who trust God to provide all they need, to continue to give them every good gift (James 1:17), and to fulfill every desire of their hearts for eternity with Him in heaven. As a result, these believers willingly sacrifice opportunities for “more and more” money, pleasure, and power. Instead, those who trust in God make themselves available to serve the needs of others.
The result of submission to God is very different than selfish, worldly ambition. James describes godly wisdom as “pure,” translated from the Greek word hagnē. This means “undivided, chaste, or pure.” This kind of wisdom is refined and focused on exactly one thing: whatever God has called us to.
Godly wisdom is peaceable or peace-loving, putting a high value on easing conflict. His wisdom is gentle or considerate, not ready to fight, but ready to serve. This wisdom is reasonable or submissive, ready to see things from another point of view and do it someone else’s way. True wisdom is full of mercy and all the good things that flow from living this way. This wisdom is impartial, not showing the favoritism James addressed in chapter two. This wisdom is sincere, with no need to fake anything to get what it wants out of other people.
It’s amazing how much easier and more pleasant life becomes when a Christian gives up the requirement of getting what he or she wants at all costs. Without that agenda, there’s less and less need for conflict. And yet, the only way to give up that agenda is to believe that our good God is providing all we need in every moment.