But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
Serving as a pastor for more than thirty years, I have had the opportunity to walk alongside a wide variety of personality types. There have been the aggressive and passive, the compliant and argumentative, the don’t rock the boat, to let’s sink it. Some are sensitive, and some are harsh. Some cares deeply about what others think, and some don’t really care at all. My way or the highway to why can’t we all just get along. People are interesting. Leaders even more so.
While we all have a personality, with all of its inherent strengths and weaknesses, we do not have to be dominated or controlled by it. We should have the desire to walk in godly wisdom within our personalities. I admit, sometimes walking in godly wisdom is in spite of mine.
James defines wisdom from above in contrast to that from below. In the verses preceding the one above, James says, if we are bitter, jealous, or have selfish ambition in our lives, we are not walking in godly wisdom. In fact, these sinful traits will lead to disorder and every vile practice. Just like in so many other places in Scripture, the contrast begins with the three letter word, “but.”
Godly wisdom is not focused on self, jealously, or ambition. This heavenly wisdom is outward focused and leads to a harvest of righteousness. James states that godly wisdom is pure. At least part of the understanding is that this wisdom is free of personal motives.
Godly wisdom seeks peace and is gentle in nature. Those of us that have strong opinions that state them strongly need to guard against running over people. Our passion and intensity can intimidate others and silence them through our strong presentation.
Godly wisdom is open to reason. Other translations read – Willing to yield, reasonable, considerate, easy to be entreated, and accommodating. Since we are living in community with others, it is essential that we learn how to get along. This is true in the family, our jobs and the church. Godly wisdom teaches us how to relate to, and bear with those that see the world through different eyes.
There are times when we must not bend. These should be relatively few in number, and chosen carefully. Godly leaders disagree at times. Husbands and wives do also. Learning how to be open to reason, yield, and reasonable is a sign of godly wisdom. None of us contains all of the truth. We need others to help us see from a different viewpoint to make the best possible decisions. Stubbornness is not a fruit of the Spirit but a work of the flesh.
There are issues to hold fast too and to even walk away from relationships over. I like to say, hold tightly to the things that are very clear in Scripture and hold loosely to those that are not. Godly people have disagreed over many topics down through church history. Learning how to disagree agreeable is a sign of wisdom and maturity.
James further states that godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. A wise elderly gentlemen told me years ago to learn to err on the side of mercy. When in doubt, give mercy. Treat others how you want to be treated. Give mercy and you will receive it. Good advice.
I have had the pain of walking through two horrible church splits. In addition, I have participated in referring several others. A great deal of needless pain and heartache were endured because the leadership was unable to walk in godly wisdom. I have seen many relationships destroyed over issues in the Scripture that are unclear. Our best friends walked away from our long-term relationship over an unclear issue. The fruit of choosing to not walk in godly wisdom is painfully obvious. On the other hand, walking in James’ wisdom produces excellent fruit. Unity, service, acts of mercy, outreach, etc. all follow after leaders who are willing to work together.
Finally, James says that godly wisdom is impartial and sincere (without hypocrisy). This probably refers to not showing partiality to the rich or living in fear of man, or walking in pretense. We must make decisions based on what we believe and not on the consequences or opinions of others. Each of us will live with our conscience. We must walk in integrity, sincerity, and with, as best as we can tell, pure motives.
Putting all of this together leads to walking in godly wisdom. Godly wisdom I believe leads to excellent decisions and strong relationships. Walking in my flesh, demanding my own way, and being unwilling to yield leads to death. In Scripture, we are strongly encouraged to choose life and choosing to walk in godly wisdom is certainly part of that choice.
I am surrounded by godly men that desire to walk in godly wisdom. We recently navigated a potentially disastrous discussion by following the above verse. Each of us is strong and feel passionately about our viewpoints. However, we value something even more than being right or winning the debate. We value each other. We can disagree over policy and positions, but we will not forsake godly wisdom in the process. We must not, and for that I thank my God daily.