Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. - Vs 13 (NET)
Belief and behavior. Who you say you are should reveal itself in how you act. If you think of yourself as wise and understanding, it should show up in your conduct. Wisdom produces fruit. But according to James there are two different kinds of wisdom: The worldly variety and the wisdom that comes from God. The wisdom of this world "is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic" (Vs 15), and it produces the fruit of jealousy, selfish ambition, arrogance, dishonesty, and disorder. It is a wisdom that comes from the world around us. It is natural or sensual. In other words, it is controlled more by the senses than by common sense. This kind of wisdom is driven more by our natural, fleshly desires than by any kind of intelligent, moral code. We do what we do because we FEEL like it. So our conduct becomes selfish and self-centered. It's all about what's in it for us. We become driven by jealousy and selfish ambition. Our motives become skewed and screwed up. In the first 12 verses of this chapter, James has been talking about the tongue and the difficulty we have controlling it. Verse 13 and on are just an extension of that same thought. The tongue, and the words we use to form with it, can be a destructive force in our lives. We do great damage with our tongues. Yet at the same time we can think of ourselves as wise. We can bless God with our tongue and then turn around and curse our brother. Our behavior, or in this case our speech, does not match what we say we believe. Our "fruit" proves it. Our words betray the kind of wisdom we rely upon. Earthly wisdom.
But James says there is another kind of wisdom. It comes from a source outside of ourselves – from above. It comes from God and it produces distinctly different fruit. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere" (Vs 17 - NLT). It's pure, innocent, or clean. Free from any kind of impurity or flaw. There's no hint of evil intent in it. No jealousy of pride. It is also peace loving. It's accompanied by an attitude of peace, not conflict. Its gentle and fair – all the time. It yields to others. In other words, it is accommodating, not demanding its own way. It's full of mercy for others that shows itself in positive actions. It shows no favoritism in order to gain an advantage. It treats everyone with equal respect. And it is always sincere. There's no hypocrisy. No blessing mixed with cursing. It is consistent.
The fruit this kind of wisdom produces is righteousness. James is talking about righteous living as a fruit, as the thing produced. The wisdom from above results in lives that are righteous and pure. It produces a fruit that is beneficial to all those who encounter it. When we live according to the wisdom from above, we are sowing seeds that will produce the right kind of fruit. And it will make a difference in the way we live and in our relationships with those around us. I love the way The Message interprets the last verse of this chapter: "You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." We have the job of pursuing peace with one another based on the wisdom of God, not of this earth. And if we do, the result will be righteous lives and healthy, robust relationships with those around us.
Father, I need Your wisdom. I rely way too much on my own or the wisdom that is of this world. I listen far too much to what is passed off as the wisdom of this age. But it always fails me. Help me to hear Your wisdom more clearly. To seek it more diligently. To obey it more regularly. So that I might live a life that results of the fruit of righteousness. Amen