Who among you is wise and understanding?
A pandemic which has brought much death and grief. Economic and financial hardship for many. Dissatisfaction with those in power. Outrage and distress over racial tension. Riots and violence in cities across the nation, including our nation’s capital. How should Christians respond to all of this? Some wish that God would directly give them advice about how to best react to what’s going on in the world today. “How I wish I were as wise as God!” has been said repeatedly by many in the church. I’ve wished for it myself, and I’ve prayed for it also (James 1:5-8). I’m thankful that God gives wisdom “generously and without reproach” (1:5). He gives wisdom providentially through lessons learned from mistakes made in life (cf. Heb. 12:5-13). I’m reminded of televised interviews with rioters now under arrest, facing termination from employment, who have said, “This was the worst decision I’ve ever made.” We can learn from mistakes. However, God also gives us wisdom through the Scriptures (Ps. 119:90-100; cf. Prov. 1:1-9, 20-33; 2:1-22).
If we heed this “wisdom from above” (3:17), how will we act? What kind of person will we be? God says that those “among you” who are “wise and understanding” will be known for their “good behavior” (3:13). Wisdom from God prompts one to speak and act in ways which their parents likely taught them were proper. He also speaks of “the gentleness of wisdom” (3:13) and contrasts it with “bitter jealousy,” “selfish ambition,” and those who are “arrogant” and “lie against the truth” (3:14). The latter is specifically cited as wisdom which is “not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (3:15). Its end result will be even more of what is hurting our society these days: “disorder and every evil thing” (3:16). However, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:17).
Let’s “examine ourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). How do we react to what’s on the news? How do we interact with those with whom we disagree? Is it in ways which we would consider appropriate if our children or grandchildren said and did the same things? How gentle are we? How humble? Do we feel we have to “weigh in” with our thoughts on everything? If someone disagrees with us, do we feel the need to put them in their place? Are we bitter? Can we find nothing good in our life, our country, or the world because all we focus on is the negative? Is how we want things to be in our home, our job, and the nation the most important thing, with everything else taking a distant second? Are we prideful, thinking that we have it all figured out? Is it inconceivable that we would be wrong in any way about what we see going on in the world today? If so, it’s likely that pride is prompting us to “lie to the truth” concerning anything which might contradict our mistaken perceptions. Christians, is this us?
To see things with wisdom, we must work to be penitently pure (1 John 1:7-9). Promoting peace over violence and strife in all things must be our top priority (Matt. 5:9). Our first inclination must always be to speak and act gently about everything with everyone, including those with whom we disagree (Prov. 15:1; Tit. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). We must be known for our reasonableness rather than our tendency to believe every theory which aligns with what we wish would occur (1 Thess. 5:21; cf. Is. 8:11-13). We must also be known for our mercy and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit (Matt. 5:7; Gal. 5:22-23). Everyone must also clearly see our impartiality (1 Thess. 5:21; cf. 1 Tim. 5:21; James 4:8). Our sincerity – our lack of hypocrisy, our genuineness, our desire to abhor evil and cling to good no matter what (Rom. 12:9) – must be continually evident. What’s the result? “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18). We will be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem.
Christians, is this how we are?