Pure Wisdom

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

The Epistle of James is such a practical book, and one of my favorites to read and read again. In today’s study verse, James outlines what godly wisdom will look like when manifested in a believer’s heart.

If I said it’s not what we know that makes us wise, but rather what we are, would you argue with that? Let me explain.

In James 3:13, James implores us to display our wisdom through living a good life, by deeds done in humility derived by our wisdom. Thus, wisdom is the “good life”, a life that resembles a holy, genial presence that makes visible the life of our invisible Lord.

Wisdom is the very essence of the spiritual life and the catalyst for every action. It is the dynamic that draws others closer to God, if they are to be drawn at all. It is, as Peter noted, a life that others take notice of, a life full of good deeds that seek only to glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).

It’s more than knowledge. For we know knowledge alone tends to corrupt and puff oneself up in vanity and pride, bypassing the heart and traveling straight to the head. Charles Spurgeon once said, when distinguishing knowledge from wisdom, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

James speaks of wisdom from heaven in verse 17. What can we make of this?

It is a pure wisdom, one that sets it sights on all that is good and true and beautiful. Paul’s closing exhortation in Philippians 4:8 sums this up well: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Heavenly wisdom is also peaceful. Peace is the action of those who are aligned heart to heart with God and who are quiet and confident in His will (Psalm 131:2). It is not enraptured and enslaved by the frenzy of this world, but has about it the leisurely perspective of eternity.

Such a wisdom embodies mercy and grace. It is an understanding that the limitations and failures of others is no different than our own in the sight of God; it is quick to be compassionate and understanding when others around them experience silence from God during the trials of life. Such wisdom absorbs the weakness and failures of others, replacing anger expelled towards them with love and patience in return.

A wisdom as this cannot be obtained from others, nor can we achieve it on our own. It is not a product of intellect, education, experience, or deliberate thinking. It comes “from above”, as James puts it. and it is ours for the asking.

Most of us will lead unremarkable, fairly ordinary lives, likely to be noted for nothing in particular. But if we seek godly wisdom such as what James speaks of, we can live a very useful life in the service of our Lord. When we do this, our impact can be immeasurable. We can provide the opening needed for the Holy Spirit to convict someone of their need for a Savior.

Seek such wisdom, then leave it behind like bread crumbs. Perhaps in doing so, others will find their way to Christ.

This is how we use pure wisdom.