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  • John Lenschow

True Wisdom is a Lifestyle

James 3:17-18

1. Recognize the Context: Previous Context-James 3:13-16

In verse 13, James begins with another rhetorical question. He returns to the topic of wisdom introduced in chapter 1 (1:5). He asks if anyone has wisdom and understanding. This word pair is found in the Old Testament (Deut. 1:13, 4:6, Hos. 14:9). For James, as in the Hebrew Scriptures, true wisdom comes from God and practically enables a person to live in a relationship with him and others. The evidence of a person’s wisdom and understanding is demonstrated in their positive actions or lifestyle, specifically in their humility, which comes from wisdom (1:21).


In contrast, the person who has bitter envy and selfish ambition in their hearts should not boast like these are positive qualities. They also should not lie about them. A life characterized by these vices is not a life of wisdom and humility from above. Remember, of course, true wisdom enables a person to live in a relationship with God and others. Therefore, this pseudo-wisdom is of a human understanding (earthly), not from God’s Spirit (unspiritual), and from the devil (demonic).

The presence of envy and selfish ambition leads to pride and a false sense of wisdom. The result is chaos and evil, both individually and in the believing community.

2. Read the Scripture: James 3:17-18

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

3. Reflect on Scripture: In verse 17, James presents the anthesis of “fake wisdom” by describing wisdom from above. This wisdom from God is characterized by several virtues, with many of these qualities listed in other passages throughout Scripture.

Wisdom from heaven is

1. (first) Pure-(Phil. 4:8, 1 Pet. 3:2) free from moral impurity and sinfulness This is identified as first, perhaps indicating the source from which the other characteristics flow.

2. (then) Peace-loving-(Heb. 12:11) Harmonious relationships as opposed to the disorder mentioned in verse 16 3. Considerate-(1 Tim 3:3, Titus 3:2) gentle and kind to one another

4. Submissive-compliant and willing to yield This word is found only here in the New Testament. 5. Full of mercy-(Matt. 9:13, Hos. 6:6) concern expressed for someone in need See 2:13 above. 6. Good fruit-(Matt. 7:16-20) meaning good deeds This is in contrast to evil practices identified in verse 16. 7. Impartial-Not divisive or nonjudgmental 8. Sincere-(1 Pet. 1:22) genuine

In verse 18, James concludes his description of true wisdom with an emphasis on peacemaking (Matt. 5:9). Those who live wisely are peacemakers, and their reward is a right relationship with God and others.

4. Relate to life:

Now it's time to get specific and respond today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.


To pray:

Today (and this week), pray through this list of virtues describing true wisdom from God. What stands out as the most needed right now?


Today, pray for specific family and friends who need these virtues of wisdom in their life.

To do: (work produced by faith with the Holy Spirit’s help) Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.

Discuss these characteristics of wisdom with a trusted friend. If you are willing to hear their feedback, ask them about the evidence of these virtues in your own life. Take some time to pray together and hold each other accountable. To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passages).

Read and study the passages listed above.

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