13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James is talking about ‘envy and selfish ambition’, a spirit which is always criticizing, which cannot let a nice word go by without adding a nasty one. And when someone with that kind of spirit claims to be healthy, James says, they are telling lies against the truth. He goes further, he says that a mindset like that comes from the world of demons. It may give some appearance of wisdom. Cynicism often does. We are faced with two kinds of wisdom. Criticisms may be fully justified, as they certainly would have been in James’s day.
But the challenge for God’s people is to be able to tell the truth about the way the world is, and about the way wicked people are behaving, without turning into a perpetual grumble, and in particular without becoming someone whose appearance of ‘wisdom’ consists in being able to find a cutting word to say about everyone and everything. There is, after all, a vast amount of beauty, love, generosity and sheer goodness in the world. Those who follow Jesus ought not only to be celebrating it but contributing to it. And this is how James says it when he describes real godly wisdom – I love how he puts it, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”.
Father may I be careful to always speak with encouragement and in the manner James describes here and keep me from mumbling and grumbling!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta