Every day, people test our patience and try our nerves. The world is filled with difficult people (most of whom live in my neighborhood). It’s important for us to learn how to get along with other people. To do so, we need to seek God’s wisdom in how we treat others.
Wisdom Is About Character (v. 13)
Four times in this section, James used the word wise or wisdom. Wisdom is practical knowledge or moral insight and skill in making correct and upright decisions based on God’s Word. Wisdom is powerful. A wise person demonstrates good conduct and gentleness; demonstrates a spirit of meekness, resulting in power being under control; lives by positive attitudes, godly actions, and uplifting words; communicates what is best, seeking to accomplish good in all relationships. Their words and behavior are consistent. Their words match their walk, and their walk matches their talk.
A Lack of Wisdom Produces Chaos (vv. 14-16)
The opposite of such character and conduct results in jealousy, selfishness, bragging and disregard for truth-telling. It results in contentious relationship and controversial situations. People without wisdom often develop a factious or partisan spirit. Such behavior is not from God. In fact, it is earthly, sensual and demonic. It stands in opposition to God and His Spirit. Such behavior produces disorder and evil.
A person harboring these traits is self-centered, desiring personal gain and selfish agendas. Their actions lead to unhealthy community at least, chaos and confusion at worst. If left unchecked, such action causes riots and insurrection, not to mention warring families, splitting churches and broken friendships.
Godly Wisdom Displays Certain Characteristics (vv. 17-18)
Godly wisdom, on the other hand, will be characterized by eight distinct, positive qualities.
The first characteristic is pureness, pertaining to whatever is of God. Pure means uncorrupted, authentic. The wise person will not lie, cheat, manipulate or deceive. They are people of integrity.
The second characteristic is peaceable. Wise people are peace-loving. They work at maintaining harmony, seek freedom from strife and avoid arguments.
The third characteristic is gentleness. The wise person is considerate and patient with others. They seek to understand before being understood.
The fourth characteristic is being open to reason. The wise person is willing to listen and learn from others. The wise are open to new ideas and suggestions; are compliant, displaying a willingness to yield not in passivity but in actions that lead to peace.
The fifth characteristic is merciful. The wise person does not hold sins against others in a judgmental way, but offers compassion to those in distress.
The sixth characteristic is the presence of good fruits. The wise person is kind in his or her actions, taking steps to halt conflict and strife.
The seventh characteristic is impartiality or showing no favoritism. The wise person responds to others without prejudice.
The eight characteristic is sincerity. The wise person is without hypocrisy and is not phony, living an honest, genuine life without pretense, where actions match words and truth is sought. A person with this trait is open to others’ approaches.
People demonstrating these qualities relate to others in ways that banish discord and disunity. The result will be the fruit or harvest of righteousness that produces peace in relationships. Peacemaking often means unity-protecting. In other words, when we use wisdom in treating other people, relational accord will result.
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said it best, “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.”