“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18)
The epistle of James is to the New Testament as Proverbs is to the Old Testament, in that they are both considered wisdom literature. James helps us to understand and develop applied wisdom—wisdom that bears fruit. The passage above is a parenthesis on godly wisdom between a warning about the danger of the tongue (3:1-12) and a warning against worldliness (4:1-16). James informs us that our good conduct is evidence of our wisdom, when carried out with humility. By implication, arrogance is foolish, even when a person’s intention is correct. This truth has particular relevance to the rising volume of anger, criticism, and accusations in our culture today, and acceptance of harsh words, even for a good cause.
James goes on to say that we should not boast about being truthful, since biblical purity cannot be offered by one who is bitterly jealous or selfishly ambitious. If I am arrogant, envious, or ambitious for my own sake, I cannot be wise, where God is concerned, no matter what the world might say, since jealousy and selfishness go hand-in-hand with disorder and sinful practices.
After these warnings, James lists eight characteristics of godly wisdom in verses 17 and 18, reflecting the attributes of the Jesus Christ, who is its source. This pure, peaceful, gentle, merciful, impartial, and sincere wisdom can only be received as a gift from Him. The good news is that God will give us this wisdom if we ask in faith (James 1:5), because He is generous. God’s generosity results in a bountiful goodness that is produced by His wisdom, yielding full mercy, good fruits, and a “harvest of righteousness.”
Will you ask God for the wisdom that exceeds all our human sinful tendencies, receive it in faith, and put it to use with humility? The reward is a “harvest of righteousness.”