Reflecting on "The Wisdom From Above" (an exploration of James 3:13-18)

Taking a Glimpse Within

My family and I decided to attend a church service this morning where a wonderful friend and pastor, Jason Walker, was speaking. I'm glad we did. I found his words encouraging, yet incredibly challenging, reminding me of the centrality of humility in the life of a Christian and specifically in my own life. Upon returning home, my heart was unsettled and instead of breaking out with the latest biography on my reading list, I opened up the Bible to the book of James and read the following passage: 

James 3:13-18 (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Reflecting on this passage quickly brought to mind many facets of the inner workings of my own heart where significant change needs to occur. One such facet goes back for as long I can remember and relates to the need to make an positive impression on others. Though I've been increasingly aware of the need to let this tendency go, I was quickly forced to reckon with it when we moved from Seattle to New Mexico earlier this year. 

An Unsettled Place

The move set off an unsettling combination of thoughts, from "I can't believe are resources are so limited," to "We're going to need a lot of help to make this happen." Let me tell you, from my standpoint of wanting to make an impression, asking for help ranked at the bottom of the list. Nevertheless, that was exactly where I found myself, and as painful as it felt emotionally, I knew the Lord was doing a needed work in my life. 

This work invoked a humility, the kind of which I had not experienced in years, and brought me face to face with something I often speak to clients about: vulnerability. Indeed, I felt vulnerable, and still do in many ways, though I'm coming to accept this vulnerability as a positive cue to forgo any illusion of control and quickly turn to the Lord in prayer.

A Wisdom Not Our Own

Looking back over this time of transition, I'm reminded of one of the center points in the message I heard earlier today:

"Sometimes problems aren't problems to be solved, they are opportunities to receive promises and power, to help us make it through our problems."1

I believe this statement is true, and relates to what James refers to when speaking of the wisdom from above: living in a manner consistent with God's nature presses upon our natural tendency to do things our own way, requiring a shift from pride to humility, and a readiness to rely on the power of His Spirit, so that we may honor him in the daily course of our lives. 

Furthermore, James 3:17-18 helps us recognize when we are living according to this type of wisdom: 

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Christ: Our Example

Where do we find these traits perfectly exemplified? We find them in the life of Christ, so aptly presented to us in the New Testament Gospels. A powerful example is found in John 8:1-11, where a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought to Christ by the scribes and Pharisees, to test and bring a charge against Him. His reply to them is succinct and to the point: 

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her (vs. 7)."

They, like any of us who have the true nature of our hearts brought to light, had to acknowledge their imperfections and realize they had no right whatsoever to cast the first stone. Moreover, they were confronted by a response based in the wisdom from above, which was the only one that would do, because it was based in truth, gentleness, mercy and love.

My prayer is that together we will find ourselves abiding by Christ's example, daily living according to such a beautiful wisdom from above

Very Best,

Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling

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  1. Walker, J. (2017). Jason's top 40. Sermon given at Heart for the World Church in Las Cruces, NM.