But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18, NLT)
In the previous verses, James described what heavenly wisdom is not. He now turns to explain what wisdom is through a series of seven characteristics. His listing reminds me of the way Paul outlined the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Let’s look at them in the order they are provided.
- Wisdom is first of all, pure. This word connotes moral singularity. It is not divided or double minded, nor is it characterized by mixed motivations.
- Wisdom loves peace. Earthly wisdom creates conflict and chaos, whereas heavenly wisdom is marked by peace. True wisdom unites, seeking to bring an end to division. Peace keeping passively seeks the quiet absence of conflict. Peace making actively brings people together to resolve conflicts.
- Wisdom is gentle at all times. Another way to view this is to think of it as kind and considerate. It is flexible, as it does not forcefully demand its own way.
- Wisdom is willing to yield to others. The NIV translates this phrase as “open to reason,” meaning that it is willing to listen to other points of view and be persuaded by them insofar as it does not violate moral principles.
- Wisdom is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. Coupled together, James reminds his readers once again that heavenly wisdom is displayed in action and deed.
- Wisdom shows no favoritism, in the sense that it does not show partiality or prejudice.
- Wisdom is always sincere. It is genuine, authentic, and without hypocrisy. It is not pretentious.
James uses a metaphor from agriculture to close his argument. Those who possess heavenly wisdom will ultimately seek peace and plant seeds of peace. The crop that is raised, however, is not absence of conflict, rather planting peace anticipates a harvest of righteousness wherein we are in “right standing” with God and one another.
His overall argument (James 3:13-18) may be understood as follows: (1) The presence of division reveals the absence of heavenly wisdom; (2) Heavenly wisdom works for peace; (3) Those who are peace makers possess true wisdom; and (4) Those who create chaos and discord do not possess wisdom, regardless of their claims to possess it.
James’ list of virtues challenges us to consider what heavenly wisdom is and to self assess our personal progress toward this standard. In a world that is filled with discord and strife, heavenly wisdom is needed now more that ever. So, what are you planting?