In previous blogs, I discussed the first two parts of the thematic proverb of the book of James,
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).
From James 3:13 all the way to the end of the book, James talks about fellowship among the people of God. He says that real wisdom comes from above and isn’t earthly. True wisdom involves gentleness, peace, and kindness, not quick tempers and selfishness.
Real wisdom shows itself in gentleness.
Wisdom shows itself with gentleness in relationships. Look at James 3:13:
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”
There’s a gentleness in Christian relationships in which people should not be quick to anger, but slow to anger.
Real wisdom is not self-centered.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth” (James 3:14).
When James says “the truth,” he means the Gospel. When a person lives with arrogance, selfishness, and jealousy, he is living in contradiction to the Gospel, living a lie against the truth.
That kind of wisdom is not the wisdom that comes down from above [“from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17)] No. That kind of wisdom, the kind with selfish ambition and jealousy, is from the earth. It’s “earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist [notice there’s ruckus, fighting, and words of anger], there’s disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:15b-16).
Real wisdom is pure and peaceable.
The wisdom that comes down from God – the wisdom that ought to characterize our lives – comes when we allow the word of the Gospel to change us. The wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, and reasonable. To have this wisdom means I don’t make exceptions to unreasonable demands. Someone with this wisdom is full of mercy. They treat others the way they’d like to be treated. They’re full of good fruits. They’re unwavering, constant, faithful, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
Compare James 1:20, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” to James 3:18, “And the seed [when you hear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God] whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” The message of the Gospel is the message of peacemakers. So let it make peace within you.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Gospel is a peacemaking enterprise. To sow the Gospel of the Kingdom of God bears a fruit of righteousness, which is peace. It’s the Shalom of God. It’s love between and among people.
The Gospel produces peace.
You simply cannot be slow to anger if you don’t live in gentleness and peace. As the Holy Spirit moves in your life, the message of the Gospel of peace will produce peace within you, and you must also be disciplined to live in gentleness and peace – these are characteristics of real wisdom.
Peace and gentleness are more than civility.
Recently an NPR headline read, “Captivating America: Civility War.” It’s one among many headlines that highlights the deterioration of our public discourse, which is characterized by rudeness, personal attacks, and outrage. While I don’t want to say much about my political opinions, I do want to call believers to pursue peace without compromising convictions. Jesus remained firm in his convictions and did so by being a servant who gave himself as a ransom for many. Within this volatile political landscape, I hope you’re able to do a few things, which are tied to the James 1:19 proverb.
Be quick to hear.
First, I hope you will be quick to hear. As I’ve said in previous blogs, James means for you to hear the gospel and for it to completely transform your life. But on another level, I hope you will be quick to listen to opinions that are different from your own. Listen to your neighbor. Listen to and read ideas with which you do not agree. Be a hearer and listener, and filter everything you hear through a biblical worldview.
Be slow to speak.
Secondly, I hope you will be slow to speak. The tongue is a deadly poison. Be careful that the words of your mouth are pure, peaceable, and true. Don’t say something you will later regret. There is a time to speak, but I hope nothing you say or do will compromise the message of the gospel in your life.
Be slow to anger.
Finally, be slow to anger. Pursue peace and gentleness as you interact with others who differ from you. As the Spirit transforms you, live in obedience. At the very least, you should be civil. But being civil is not enough if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ – be gentle, loving, and kind without sacrificing your convictions. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
Real wisdom, the wisdom from heaven, is pure, peaceable, and gentle. May we be a people who listen to the Holy Spirit and bear its fruit.
In my next blog, I’ll complete this series on the book of James with a quick look at chapters 4 and 5.
Related James blogs:
- What does it mean to walk in the newness of life?
- James 1: Christian Wisdom Starts with Christ
- James 1: Are you quick to hear?
Blog edited by Joannah Buffington