Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

True Wisdom (James 3:17-18) ~ A Daily Devotion for February 7, 2014

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” ~ James 3:17-18

Explanation of the Text: Yesterday, we were able to see from James 3:14-16 what false wisdom looks like. James now moves on to true wisdom and the evidence it gives in one’s life. There are a number of descriptors that James uses here, and it is probably best to go through each of these individually:

Pure: This word pure means to be blameless. Quite literally it is to be free from any impurities in one’s life. It is the same word that is used in Philippians 4:8 when Paul makes mention of what to keep one’s mind focused on. Note that this is the first thing that James mentions in this list of characteristics, denoting that it is of paramount importance. If one is not pure first, then the other characteristics will not follow, because it is purity that impacts everything else.

Peaceable: It does not say to be a peacemaker, but rather be peaceable. Being peaceful, in the sense of not causing strife, division, etc. should be part of a person’s nature, if they have true wisdom.

Gentle: Epieikēs (gentle) has no satisfactory equivalent in English, but it carries the ideas of equitable, seemly, fitting, fair, moderate, forbearing, courteous, and considerate. [1]

Open to Reason: The word here is interesting because it means compliant and also easy to persuade. This idea must be understood immensely in order to apply it appropriately. Rather than being subject to our own emotions, we should be rational. For example, how do we respond to discipline? Often we get emotional and upset, and as a result we lash out against whoever is delivering the discipline. However, being open to reason should mean that we reasonably consider the discipline. This does not mean that when Biblical authority is being challenged that one simply allows it to continue. We must be logical and thoughtful (thus being open to reason) however we cannot contradict Scripture and do something that is contrary to Scripture, because that would force someone into sin. However, the idea is that by being open to reason, you are demonstrating an attitude of humility and one of logic that makes a person teachable.

Fully of Mercy and Good Fruits: Like God has forgiven the sins of men, so should we forgive those who transgress against us. We are to be merciful towards others, in the same way that it has been lavished on us. Likewise, James says that believers should be full of good fruit. Earlier on in the epistle (James 2:14-20) James addressed the topic of works. He is calling on believers, those that have true wisdom, to show the evidence by their good conduct (James 3:13) bearing good fruit in the works that give assurance to salvation (not produce salvation!).

Impartial: In James 2:1-13, the issue of partiality is addressed in great detail. James accuses those who show partiality as being in judgment of others. The idea is to not make distinctions based on partial judgments, but instead treat all the same.

Sincere: Originally it meant inexperienced in the art of acting.[2] It means to be genuine with no pretenses. In church circles these days, there is this movement in which people say they want others to be genuine with them. In other words, be who you are and don’t put on masquerades. We can never build true relationships if we are not genuine, because we never get to know the true person.

After indicating the characteristics of true wisdom, James closes out this section by indicating that those who sow in peace and make peace, will have a harvest of righteousness. This is a difficult verse in the Greek, and thus it is difficult to understand the full meaning when reading it in English. John MacArthur offers up a good explanation in the following statement:

“There is an inexorable causal relationship between godly wisdom, genuine righteousness, and peace. Godly wisdom produces a continuing cycle of righteousness, which is planted and harvested in a peaceful, harmonious relationship between God and His faithful people and between those people themselves. As Isaiah declared, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isa. 32:17).”[3]

Examination & Application of the Text: As we discussed false wisdom yesterday and went through some basic questions about which is prevalent in your life, false wisdom or true wisdom? Today, we add to that test by giving the characteristics of true wisdom. Simply put, here are some basic questions to ask first in the evaluation of yourself, of course using the definitions provided above for each word:

1)       Am I pure?

2)       Am I peaceable?

3)       Am I gentle?

4)       Am I open to reason?

5)       Am I full of mercy?

6)       Am I full of good works?

7)       Am I impartial?

8)       Am I sincere?

The reality is that none of us could answer yes to all of these questions all of the time. So how do we do it? Through the power of the Holy Spirit and His presence in our life (Ephesians 5:18). What has to be recognized though is whether or not you meet these the majority of the time and whether or not there is a desire to be this way. I can point to many points in my life where I fail on any of these points, because I am still a sinful human being who battles with the flesh. However, I pray (and hope you pray the same way for yourself) that I will be molded into Christlikeness and submit to His lordship every day. Only then, can we grow into accomplishing any of these.

Finally, there is one major aspect to true wisdom. As we defined two days ago, true wisdom is THE LORD JESUS CHRIST! How exciting is that! Therefore, in order to have true wisdom in your life, you must be a genuine disciple of his. Anything apart from Him is false wisdom. This must be the very first key when you evaluate yourself.


[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 178.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000). Entry #505.

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 180–181.

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