Have you ever had the opportunity to spend time conversing with someone who seems to possess an extraordinary amount of wisdom? You know the kind of person that can assess every life situation imaginable, knowing how to handle them with discernment and sagacity. I have wondered on many occasions what it would be like to have the wisdom of Solomon and be able to demonstrate astute understanding in every life situation I might face.
James understands how important it is to be wise. He presents an “if – then” challenge in verses 13-18. If we are wise and understanding, then it will be evident by the kind of life we live.
“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.” (13-15)
James has taken his primary theme of developing a mature/perfect faith to another level. The original proposition – We will face a variety of trials and tribulations which provide an opportunity for our faith to grow. Our faith grows as we observe God’s faithfulness to us through those trials and tribulation. The second proposition – We need wisdom to successfully navigate the trials we’ll face in life, wisdom God will generously grant if we ask believing He will be faithful in giving it.
Now James is sharing that if we have acquired the wisdom God offers, it will be demonstrated in the kind of life we live, not only the things we do (our deeds), but the attitude with which we do them.
He begins by sharing that we will show our wisdom by our good life. The word James used for “good life” is kalos. The English interpretation is “lovely” or “attractive.” James is sharing that wise followers of Christ will have a goodness that is lovely, attractive, wholesome and helpful. There is something else we should think about – the “good life” is one that is plain for all to see.
James is not referring to a “worldly” good life. This world’s view of a good life is often connected with one’s financial status. The worldly definition of a good life is: those who have the financial resources to do whatever they want to do and go wherever they want to go. And yet we have all observed others who may not possess the world’s riches but still have a sense of peace, contentment and balance that makes them “attractive” to everyone.
James has already shared with his readers that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the first-fruits of all God created, the best portion dedicated to God. He has reminded them that they have the WORD, which has been implanted in them. He has encouraged them to keep themselves unstained from the evil of the world. He has also spent a large portion of his letter challenging them to control their tongues, encouraging them to avoid showing favoritism, and reminding them that God has good and perfect gifts which He offers them.
Each of these truths and challenges, when applied and demonstrated in the lives of Christ followers results in one experiencing a genuine “good life.” It is a life that displays the beauty and goodness of God.
Through all of these “topics,” James is inviting his readers to evaluate the condition of their heart. If the heart is pure, what flows from it (our words and actions) will also be pure. And in these verses, he is going to contrast two kinds of wisdom, and earthly wisdom and a heavenly wisdom.
Ove the next few days, we will take a closer look at these two wisdoms, but it is important to understand where this wisdom originates.
Consider this passage as a general definition of wisdom: “Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)
I think it is interesting that James shares with us that we are to “fear the Lord and shun evil.” Look also at Proverbs 9:10-12 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”
James would have also been familiar with this passage: “My son, if you accept My (God’s) words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding …..then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2: 1, 2, 5, 6)
James uses the word “fear,” possibly in referenced to the passages in Proverbs he would have been familiar with. In this case, we are not talking about the kind of “fear” that comes from facing our enemies. This “fear” is a reference to understanding our relationship with God. Another word that comes to mind is “reverence.” When we realize that our understanding and knowledge should come from God; when we put all of our trust in Him; when we submit to Him in every way; when we allow His Spirit to serve as our guiding force; when we realize that allow his “words” and commands to become active within us, then we have begun the journey that will result in wisdom.
Where does wisdom come from? From God’s mouth come knowledge and understanding! Based on these verses, the journey of obtaining wisdom can be exciting!
Have a great day.