World English Bible translation
3:13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don't boast and don't lie against the truth. 3:15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 3:18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Today's Scripture is an important transition paragraph. This passage combines two lines of thought and leads to an important third line that will dominate the bulk of the rest of the epistle. James has written about the importance of righteous deeds and about the problems that immoderate speech can provoke. These two ideas come together as James encourages his readers to turn away from jealousies and the selfish ambitions that destroy peace.
James admonishes them to let the wise man show by his good conduct that his deeds are wise. Wisdom can be seen by the expression of gentleness. Christ was filled with gentleness and humility. The wisdom that comes from God through Christ will be filled with the same gentleness and humility.
However, there is another kind of wisdom. There is a kind of wisdom that comes from the evil in men's hearts that attempts to lie against the truth and attempts to pit one man against another. James describes this wisdom as "earthy, sensual and demonic." It leads to confusion and every evil deed. Notice too that most of the evil deeds that are mentioned are the evil that is spoken: boasting and lying.
So the man who has nurtured the implanted word of God will demonstrate the wisdom that comes from God through his good works. The earthly man will demonstrate the rebellion to God that is found in his heart through the unrestrained evil of his tongue. The wisdom that God gives is filled with the attributes of God. They are gentleness and mercy, purity and peacefulness.
The most important virtue that James wants to emphasize here is the virtue of peace. The peace that James desires for his readers here is the peace between brethren in Christ. James uses an agrarian picture to describe exactly what he means. Those that would have peace in their lives must "sow in peace." They have to bring peace with them wherever they go and then cultivate peace in places where there is none. The peace that they sow comes from the implanted word and is a part of the good gifts that flow down from the Father of lights to His children.
What have you done today to sow peace in your world? Where does your wisdom come from: from the Father of lights that is pure and full of mercy or from the earthly, sensual evil that resides in the heart of man?
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