Who is the wise person? James begins this section with that timely question. How do we know who to follow? How do we know who to listen to? How do we know when our own lives are on track, especially in the midst of a very confusing and chaotic world? James draws from the best of the Old Testatment wisdom tradition in this section, insitsting that the truly wise person will be known not through words, knowledge or skills; wisdom is foremost proven in the goodness of a life well lived. In the words of Paul Tripp, "There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is an accurate understanding of truth. Wisdom is understanding and living in light of how that truth applies to the situations and relationships of your daily life. Knowledge is an exercise of your brain. Wisdom is the commitment of your heart that leads to transformation of your life.”
James spends the bulk of this section contrasting true and false wisdoms. These two “wisdoms” are dramatically different in their source, characteristics, and results. False wisdom originates from the world, from sinful desires, and from the devil himself (3:15). This wisdom is characterized by envy and selfish ambition, and it results in disorder, division, and evil ways of life. True wisdom originates from God himself (3:17). It is characterized by gentleness, submission, consideration, submission, mercy, impartiality, and sincerity, and it results in a “harvest of righteousness.” James is keen that his friends deeply understand the difference between these two wisdoms and live according to the true way. It brings to mind some of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1-2 about living according to the wisdom of God, which seems foolish in the eyes of the world.
This Sunday we’ll explore how we can become people of true wisdom. In preparation, read Proverbs chapter 3, and consider how what it says about wisdom compares with James’ words.
13 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. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 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.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.