If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
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.
When I was a kid, we would often say, “Prove it,” on the basketball court. After a game winning shot was made, someone on the losing team would pass the ball back to the kid who made the shot and tell him to “Prove it!” In other words, make that shot again to prove it wasn’t just luck. If he made it, the game was over. If he missed, the final basket didn’t count, and we would keep playing. Looking back, I guess it was a silly tradition, but maybe it taught a healthy life lesson. Sometimes we need to prove we can really do what we claim or that we are consistently and genuinely the person we say that we are. Sometimes we have to prove it.
That’s how James saw things, and I’m pretty sure Jesus does too. It’s easy to say that we are wise, good and faithful, but do we prove with our actions that we are “living an honorable life”? Even more, do we have the kind of wisdom that comes from God? James presents a definition of wisdom that may surprise many people. He says that wisdom is pure, loving, gentle, yielding, merciful, good, fair, sincere and peaceful. Those attributes should remind us of Jesus, but they may not always remind us of the reflection we see in the mirror. All too often, we let jealousy and selfish ambition rise to the surface. Our faith may be genuine and we may desire to be filled with God’s wisdom, but time and again we fail to prove it by our actions.
Choose just one of those Christ-honoring attributes and try to embody it throughout your day. Try to be gentle in all your actions and words. Or try to treat each person you interact with in merciful ways. Or try to make peace everywhere you go. You might be surprised both by how hard it is and by how putting into practice even one of these attributes of “wisdom from above” impacts the people around you in positive ways. They might think you are acting weird, and they might also think you are acting a little more like Jesus. Or as James put it, you might “plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
God of wisdom and mercy, You always do what is right. Please drive from my heart jealousy and selfishness. Fill me instead with Your wisdom and the desire to love others the way Jesus did. Help me to live a life that honors You and shows the world who Jesus is. I ask this in His name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian