Wisdom from Above and Wisdom from Below – James 3:13-18

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

In chapter 3 of the epistle of James, James, the brother of our Lord, continues the second major theme of his epistle, concerning wisdom and speech. Clearly James contrasts two kinds of wisdom. First there is an earthly wisdom which is displayed in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition; he refers to such wisdom as earthly, natural, and demonic. James contrasts this wisdom described in verses 14-16 with wisdom from above, or godly wisdom in verse 17; he writes that wisdom from above is pure, peaceful, gentile, willing to submit, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and genuine. And the result of this kind of wisdom, he says in verse 18 is, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those making peace.”

Whether this was a general admonition, or James was addressing a specific issue to his original hearers, there is nevertheless, much for the church to learn from and apply from this section, which closes out chapter 3. First, as verse 13 proclaims, the one who is wise will display that wisdom through godly conduct. Second, verses 14-16, Christians should avoid worldly wisdom. And third, verses 17-18, Christians should embrace wisdom from above, and what it produces.

This last section of chapter 3 contrasting the two kinds of wisdom is the antecedent link to James’ rebuke in Chapter 4:1-12, of those in the church who were heeding an earthly wisdom from below and so acting as friends of the world rather than friends of God.

This week meditate on and/or discuss the following texts in order to prepare your heart for the Lord’s Day: James 3:13-18, Job 28:28, Proverbs 15:33, Jeremiah 9:24, Matthew 5:9; 11:29


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