13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist,confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Isn’t it interesting that James transitions from taming the tongue into wisdom? They really do go hand in hand you know :) As I was studying for this devotional, I read through the notes in my study Bible and thought the author’s comments so interesting about the word “understanding.” He said that the word understanding used here means a specialist or professional. James is asking the question, “Who is truly skilled in the art of living?” If we want to be skilled in the art of living, in addition to taming our tongues, we must have meek wisdom and as a result of that wisdom, good conduct.
Not everyone who claims to be a Christian has this type of meek wisdom. You know the type, and James described them to a T here in verse 14. As I studied further I learned that the person described as possessing worldly wisdom is filled with bitter envy and is self-seeking. When I looked back to see the definition of the original words used for “bitter envy” I found that it means bitter actually means harsh. Envy has several definitions that I found interesting; excitement of mind, fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal, and envious rivalry. So here a a few pictures of what this “bitter envy” and “self-seeking” might look like. One might be an extremely harsh attitude towards those in sin, with a great zeal to see punishment rained down upon the guilty. Another might notice a fierce indignation at any hint that that person might be in the wrong on any given issue. Finally, we might see a person intent on climbing an imaginary ladder of spiritual wisdom and authority in the church. The end of that verse cautions against boasting in such wisdom and covering up the failures which will surely come from this type of wisdom.
The next verse caught me a little off guard, even though I’m sure I’ve read it many times before. This type of wisdom is not from above but is “earthly, sensual, and demonic.” I thought, whoa, sensual. How is wisdom sensual? I had to investigate further. If you check around online for the definition of sensual, you will get exactly what you think you are going to get, “stimulating the sense, especially with regards to sexuality.” Hmmm…So I did a little more digging and found that the original word used means, “of or belonging to breath, the principal of animal life, which men have in common with the brutes, the sensuous nature with its subjections to appetite and passion.” So, this type of wisdom is nothing more than that of our innate human nature, or our nature instincts. Sensual wisdom is simply satisfying our flesh.
Ahhh…but the wisdom that comes from above is:
-Pure: Truly, certainly, surely, indeed, pure from carnality, chaste, modest, sacred
-Peaceable: Loving Peace
-Gentle: Suitable, equitable, fair, mild, gentle, a character trait of sweet reasonableness
-Willing to Yield: Easily obeying, compliant
-Full of Mercy: Full of kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.
-Full of Good Fruits: Full of good works, acts, deeds
-With no Partiality: Undistinguished, unintelligible, without ambiguity
-With no Hypocrisy: unfeigned, undisguised, sincere
Finally, when we choose to pray for and pursue Godly wisdom, righteousness will be sown . When we choose God’s wisdom, He will work righteousness in us, and in the people around us. Our choices and actions will create an atmosphere of peace in our lives.
So, how do we get Godly wisdom?
We start, as with all things, through prayer. We ask our Heavenly Father, and He is always faithful to give it to us, liberally and without reproach.