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James 3:13-18 – The Gift of Wisdom

Summary

The wisdom that is from above, given generously by God to all who ask for it, is full of mercy and good fruits, while earthly wisdom is unspiritual and deadly.

Analysis

These verses resume the focus on wisdom that is introduced in James 1:5-6, and they express a key theological perspective that shapes the whole letter with its predominant motifs of exhortation. Wisdom is certainly the most "perfect" gift that comes down from the Father as part of God's gifts to creation (1:17), for God gives wisdom generously and ungrudgingly to all who ask for it with sincere and single-minded faith (1:5-6). Just as this perspective breathes with the confidence that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10), it also lives in the confidence that wisdom endows the believer with a single-minded ability to act in responsible ways in the world. Wisdom endures with patience in the midst of testing, knowing that God tempts no one to sin, but that temptation comes from specific wants and desires. This wisdom from above enables and fosters a disciplined unity of hearing and doing that is expressed in impartial acts of mercy, justice, and peace. It is this confidence in the power of wisdom to have real practical consequences for living in the world that occasions the letter's characteristic mood of exhortation.

James 3:13-18

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for* those who make peace.

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10 February 2011

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