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But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
But the wisdom from above. The wisdom that Christians seek is of a heavenly origin, that is, from God. The man who possesses that wisdom will be peaceable, gentle, reasonable, etc. Wisdom: (חָכְמָה chokmah; σοφία sophia) is sound judgment, based on knowledge and understanding. It is the balanced application of that knowledge to answer difficulties, achieve objectives, sidestep or ward off dangers, and help others accomplish the same. The wise person is often contrasted with the foolishness or stupid person. Wisdom has the capacity to understand and then act wisely and so have skill in living, adhering to the standards set out in the Word of God. Wisdom belongs to the person who has accumulated knowledge or intellect or enlightenment. It is the balanced application of that knowledge to answer difficulties, achieve objectives, sidestep, or ward off dangers, not to mention helping others to accomplish the same. The wise person is often contrasted with the foolishness or stupid person. – Deut. 4:6; 1Ki 5:9; Deut. 32:6; Prov. 11:29; Eccles. 6:8; Col. 1:28; 4:5.
Is first pure. The mind controls the tongue, which we learned controls the body. Remember, James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, the world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the course of life, and is set on fire by Gehenna.” Thus, how you think will contribute to what you say and impact how you feel. Without the mind, the tongue has nothing to say. The effect of the pure wisdom of God on man is to make him upright, honest, truthful, heartfelt, genuine, and morally clean. The word here used (ἁγνός hagnos) means to have no fault, to be pure, innocent. The wisdom of God is not going to make man more intelligent, more enlightened, give him a more extraordinary imagination, make him more conversational and brilliant. The wisdom from above will not strengthen his memory or give him good judgment per se, nor is it going to make his thinking clearer or more decisive. The wisdom from God is going to purify his mind, make the man good, upright before God, and have a righteous standing before God. Godly wisdom will be applied to his consciences, refining it, purifying it, affecting his heart, and impacting his life. As man takes in this Godly wisdom, it will quickly transform him into a pure and good person.
Then peaceable. The effect of (εἰρηνικός eirēnikos) wisdom from above is a state of wholeness, wellbeing, and happiness as man lives in peace with all others. He will be free from worry, peaceable – Rom. 14:19; Heb 12:11.
Gentle (ἐπιεικής epieikēs) is being meek, merciful, tolerant, and considerate. (Php 4:5; 1Ti 3:3; Tit 3:2; 1Pe 2:18) Having a gentle spirit, demeanor, polite attitude, and manners. How can a man demonstrate that he is a true Christian? The greatest compliment that a man can receive is to be referred to as a Christian gentleman.
And reasonable. The word here (εὐπειθής eupeithēs) means easily persuaded, open to reason, compliant, submissive, open-minded, willing to yield. Here it is not being used in an apologetic sense. It also does not refer to being easily persuaded to do wrong. What is meant is the man who is being influenced by the wisdom from above is easily convinced. He is not a hardheaded, relentlessly argumentative, stubborn, unyielding man. He doe does not cling to his old person, his old way of thinking, or emotionalism. The Word of God, balanced and correctly understood, is very persuasive to this man.
Full of mercy. Being merciful (ἔλεος eleos) means being inclined to show empathy and kindness to others that have done wrong or have wronged you. This is the wisdom from above, as we are in the image of God, and this quality makes us more like God.
And good fruits. The fruits of being a good Christian: just, generous, and thoughtful. While Jesus was referring to false prophets, the principle applies to Christians as well. “So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:17-20.
Impartial. The word here used (ἀδιάκριτος adiakritos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means that a true Christian will not try to cause factions or divisions in life but also in the church. He is not prejudiced. He makes no distinctions when it comes to race or ethnicity when dealing with others. He does make distinctions based on a person’s character. He is unwavering and straightforward. The wisdom from above makes man impartial in his treatment of others. He is not motivated by a person’s possessions, station in life, but he applies equal justice to all, based on their attributes, character, and moral worth. And he shows kindness to all.
And without hypocrisy. The Greek (ἀνυπόκριτος anupokritos) here means that a man does not pretend to be someone he is not, as he expresses what is sincerely felt. There is no concealing himself or masking what he thinks, feels, or believes. What the man presents himself as he is. He is not ashamed of what the wisdom from above has caused him to become. We will go over this once more to drive the points home.
The first quality of wisdom is purity, which is especially vital. A person must possess it if there is any hope of the others existing. The Christian heart must be pure. All who have wisdom from above will know the difference between right and wrong, rejecting evil outright. On three occasions, weakened by hunger and thirst, Jesus rejected Satan’s misuse of Scripture. (Matt. 4:1-10) Joseph from the Old Testament did not even have the Mosaic Law to guide him, just the conscience God gave him, yet he still saw the evil proposition of Potiphar’s wife. In fact, Joseph wisely exclaimed, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9, 12) All of God’s teachers, those leading the congregation and those making disciples with their teaching, need this qualification overwhelmingly.
James began by saying that the wisdom that is from above is first pure. Jesus said something very similar in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This word expresses freedom from any defilement or impurity. James, here, states that heavenly wisdom starts with being pure towards God. If one’s heart is not set on God and serving Jesus Christ with complete devotion, he will not possess the following seven qualities of heavenly wisdom.
If one’s motives or intentions in following Christ are mixed with any selfish gain or selfish ambitions, then the relationship is not pure but mixed with selfish intentions. This was the problem with the Pharisees, who wanted to follow all the rules of religion without having a personal relationship with God. As a result, their religion became nothing more than just a show for men to see and gain approval for, so their worship of God was mixed with their desire to be noticed by men. One can’t claim Christ as his Savior and yet practice the world’s behaviors, attitudes, and actions. All of the other seven qualities, which James describes as being heavenly wisdom, will flow from purity.
Wisdom from above pursues peace. (Matt. 5:9; Gal. 5:22; Rom. 12:18; Eph. 6:15; Heb. 12:11, 14) Heavenly wisdom will make us a supporter or advocates of peace. Not only will we sidestep attacking or being confrontational, but we will also be a peacemaker, meaning that we will search out ways to get along with those who have difficult personalities. We will not even allow thoughts in our minds that could disrupt peace. We will be a good example to others within the congregation of avoiding aggression and stepping in to find peace where there was none before. (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 12:14) Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”–Matthew 5:9
Gentle. Heavenly wisdom will also give us the quality of gentleness. The saying is, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a painful word stirs up anger.” (Pro. 15:1) The apostle Paul told Titus, “to speak evil of no man, not to be fighting, gentle, showing all mildness toward all men.” (Titus 3:2) If we carry around wrath within us, there is no way that we will carry out the will and purposes of God. Our most outstanding teacher and example, Jesus Christ, said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) Regardless of whether we are the one doing the teaching or being taught, there is no room for harsh words or holding anger within us until it bursts forth.
Reasonable. Heavenly wisdom will make us reasonable, ready to obey, long-suffering, not fanatical in our worship. (Phil. 4:5; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 3:2) If we recall early in the book of Acts before Paul was converted, when he went by his Hebrew name Saul, he was an overly zealous young Pharisee. He allowed his fanaticism to drive him to condone locking up and murdering Christians. This unreasonable spirit of radicalism was because of his earthly wisdom. (Acts 9:1-2; Gal. 1:13, 14) However, Saul would meet Jesus on the road to Damascus, converting to Christianity, becoming one of the most reasonable men ever to live. He never insisted that it had to be his way or that it must be the letter of the law. Rather, he treated others, even enemies of Christ, with kindness and understanding. We know Paul reasoned from the Scriptures, explaining, and proving (Ac 17:2-3). Yes, he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus (Ac 9:27-28), following in the footsteps of Christ, as should we.
If we are to be God’s teachers, we cannot be dogmatic. We must treat everyone according to their abilities as well as their situations. We would never expect more from a person than he can carry. We may be teaching an unbeliever, and he accepts the truth after a few good conversations, while another may take far longer based on his situation. Even after the apostles had spent over three years in ministry with Jesus, he said to them, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
When we first begin to teach a new one, he may come with decades of life experience and a worldview that is not biblical. He will have beliefs about the Bible, God, and Christianity that are unbiblical and maybe even hatred toward God in some cases. He may have bad habits like smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, gambling, lying, and the like. He may have unscriptural behaviors like laziness, bluntness with his words, procrastination, no respect for authority, watching inappropriate movies, and so on.
However, some more than others will take off this old person and put on the new person over time. (Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:6-10) In time, they will acquire the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16) Yes, their mind will be renewed, so they can know the will of God. (Rom. 12:2) Therefore, a good teacher will not make it about his rules and regulations but allow God’s Word to guide and direct his steps. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
Mercy and good fruits. The wisdom from above is evidenced by our actions, which stem from mercy and compassion. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Such a merciful man cares for orphans and widows (Jam 1:27), as well as clothing the poor and feeding the hungry. (Jam. 2:15-17) Mercy, the result of heavenly wisdom, moves us to come to the needs of those we can help. We are not to mechanically go about helping the less fortunate merely because they are such. We use the Word of God to apply knowledge, insight, and understanding, along with justice. We must consider many factors when we give aid to another. Why? What if we used our last resources to help one who is in need, but he is there because of his abusing drugs like crack cocaine or heroin? And we could have used that aid to help a mother who is homeless with three children. We must look at the backgrounds of these, their current situation, and the pressures they face if they seek to change their lives or just seek handouts because our mercy and compassion can be abused. Moreover, a person may need our assistance to get into some treatment place, not continue down the path of dependence.
We need to realize that we are of imperfect, sinful flesh as well. We also must recognize that we live in an imperfect, wicked world; therefore, life can have us walking in the shoes of needing clothing, food, housing, and so forth. If we believe that because we are good Christians, life cannot displace us from our comfort zone and assuming that we are the exception to the rule because we are righteous, and God will protect us, remember 9/11, 2001, and the Twin Towers of New York. There were Christians who died that day from the evilness of Satan’s world. Christian wives or husbands sat at home that morning and watched those buildings crumble down on their loved ones.
The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” (5:9) We need to be compassionately concerned about human life, especially for our brothers and sisters in the faith. (See 1 Tim. 5:9-10.) Christian leaders and teachers of the congregation and all Christians responsible for teaching unbelievers have to be declared righteous in their walk with God; must also have goodness about them. The apostle Paul writes, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die.” (Rom. 5:7) Paul seems to be suggesting that there is superiority to the good man. Goodness is an active, ongoing quality. God declares one as having a righteous standing before him if he lives according to an accurate understanding of the Scriptures (i.e., doing the will of the Father), is just in his dealings, impartial, honest and truthful, not guilty of serious sin or not living in sin; hence, he is pure and upright in all of his ways. Notice that a righteous man is obedient to the rules, principles, and laws of Scripture, which is excellent indeed, but a good man goes beyond obedience. The good man will seek out ways to do good for others, not just wait for it to come to his attention. He is driven by morally beneficial attention for others and the longing to assist and help them.
Impartial. James has covered this quality quite extensively earlier in his letter, i.e., showing favoritism is a sin. (Jas. 2:1-9) The Christian possessing wisdom from above would not give special treatment to anyone based on their outward exterior, station, wealth or position in life, or their influence within the church. All Christians should endeavor to be impartial in their dealing with those inside and outside of the congregation.
A Christian hypocrite pretends to have a biblical worldview, beliefs, or love for God and neighbor but behaves contrary to God’s Word. A person who possesses heavenly wisdom has no need to impress others with an outward display of one’s life. Jesus regularly condemned hypocrisy by saying they had Godly wisdom but then failed to obey God when out of sight of human eyes. (Matt 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; Mark 12:15; Lu 12:56; 13:15) If one possesses wisdom from above, he will not be a hypocrite. He will want to live his life as he does in the congregation. The same holds true when he is outside of the congregation.
While sin is sin in some sense and all sin results in death, the Bible does express itself as recognizing that some are more egregious than others. Hypocrisy is one of the most serious sins because it enables one to hide other sins, one of which is the grieving of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees were condemned for this. (Matt. 23:23-28) Ananias and Sapphira were also guilty of hypocrisy. (Acts 5:1-10) James’ words should be a warning for any seeking to be a Christian teacher. He needs to live by what he teaches. He knows God sees all, but there is the possibility of stumbling someone out of the faith-based on his actions, for which he would be held accountable. The apostle Paul warns Timothy of this very danger of having hypocrisy in teaching. (1 Tim. 1:5-7) A hypocrite frequently is an exploiter, for he typically directs events to obtain some integrity, position, prestige, benefit from others, or material gain. – See 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
 (Comp. 2Co 7:11; 11:2; Php 4:8; 1Ti 5:22; Tit 2:5; Jas 3:17; 1Pe 3:2; 1Jn 3:3)
 That is, harsh
 Not if it violates God’s Word.
 Of course, Christianity has one major priority before all else, which is the Great Commission of proclaiming biblical truths, teaching, and making disciples. We should never allow social ills of this world to sidetrack us from finding and saving souls.