“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.“James 3:17
There is wisdom that comes from the earth, as James had discussed earlier in this chapter and wisdom that comes from above. James describes the wisdom that descends from above, which every child of God is to possess, as we see in this passage.
Let’s begin with the word “wisdom.” The Greek word translated into English is “sophia”σοφία. We, of course, get the girl’s name Sophia from this Greek word. The wisdom that comes from above is always with God (Proverbs 8:22). It isn’t a matter of simply knowing lots of things or being educated, for there is nothing that God does not know. Rather, it is a matter of the Christian living by the word God has revealed to us.
In other words, putting His word into practice, that is wisdom. We see what that looks like in this verse. First, we recognize that the only ones that can possess this wisdom are those whom Jesus Christ has saved. Since you have been born again through faith in the Person and work of Christ, you have access to this wisdom. Second, as James compares here, there is a clear difference between earthly wisdom and wisdom from above.
Earthly wisdom includes envy and strife (v.14), whereas heavenly wisdom is filled with peace and positive traits. We will look at this first trait this morning.
The wisdom that comes from God is pure. That is, it is free of contamination and is undefiled. Only pure water will quench our thirst, and contaminated water can make us sick. The same can be said in comparing the earthly and the heavenly wisdom mentioned here. It doesn’t mean that the Christian will be free of sin, but that the Christian will have spiritual integrity and morality with sincerity.
The dispersed Jewish believers that James was addressing in the middle of the first century were dealing with teachers who probably should not have been teaching (v.1). Their walk and talk would not have been in line with heavenly wisdom.
But you, Christian, are not so. The wisdom that you own is from God. His
word that He has revealed to you and that you know is perfect and pure. Though we aren’t perfect, may this wisdom characterize you. Finally, consider the traits of wisdom that come from above, and you will see that these elements are very descriptive of our Lord. We will look at the other traits in the days ahead.