Wisdom applied

We took a break from our study of James.  I'm glad to get back to it.  It's one of my most favorite books in Scripture.  If you want to check out the earlier posts, this will get you started  /livingletters4/2014/09/the-h-factor.html

This week we are in chapter 3, verses 13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Just a reminder - the preceding verses were all about the tongue.  How it holds such potential for evil and is liable to just break out with poison.  The impact it has on the hearer....and the speaker.  In the passage for today, James exhorts us to apply the truth he's just imparted. 

The first verse, in essence, asks who is willing to now live with regard to this truth, this truth of managing the tongue, in light of its potential for evil.  The "wise" here is a different word than usually occurs in the original Greek text.  The expected word for "wise" is "Sophia" but here, the word "Sophos" is used.  It translates as "a watchman" - one who watches and is thereby able to regulate his course.  The word for "works" is understood as results. And "meekness" is not weakness....rather it's power under control.  Think in terms of a mighty stallion, bridled and controlled so that his strength is used advantageously, not destructively.

So James is telling us here that our tongues need watching over.  And if we do it right, the results will be good conduct, power used to give life instead of bringing death.

In the next verses (14-16), Scripture reminds us about what governs our tongue.....our hearts.  And if the heart is wrong, don't arrogantly ignore the truth that our tongue will display what's inside.  As we learned earlier, what fills our hearts will spill out our mouths. 
These verses are radical.  They run so counter to what the "wisdom" the world offers us --- the "wisdom" that isn't wise at all.  The world advises us to maneuver ourselves up over others, tearing them down as necessary.  And a heart focused on its own selfish agenda will inevitably be jealous of those that seem "ahead" in some way.
This "wisdom" isn't wise at all.  It's not only toxic, it's actually demonic.  And it won't give us what we're after --- a life full of joy and peace and satisfaction.  Instead, this kind of "wisdom" results in chaos and unrest and evil.  In spite of what it seems to promise.

This passage closes with a litmus test for our decisions.  If we wonder what to do, whether it's a ruptured relationship or tension at work or a career choice, we can evaluate it in terms of verses 17-18.  A wise decision is one that first has a pure motive (not a selfish one!), a desire to reconcile and restore; one that is gentle as opposed to harsh or pushy.  One that is reasonable (do we women sometimes expect more than is reasonable???).  One that shows mercy in how it treats others.....not how they deserve but how they need.  One that is just (impartial) and sincere...without hypocrisy. 

And this wisdom is like a seed.  A fruitful seed that grows and blooms into a whole harvest of righteousness.  By those willing to make peace.  With themselves and with others.

Next time, we'll dig into this one verse to learn what a peacemaker is.....and what it isn't.

Looking forward to it already!