Recently my husband and I ate out at a local restaurant. Because we are living in the days of COVID 19, all persons entering were required to wear a mask and to follow all the guidelines for disease prevention mandated by the governor of Texas. After being seated, we visited with the manager, who happens to be a friend. He shared with us how difficult it has been trying to uphold the mask-wearing policy. Some of the patrons have been belligerent, refusing to wear a mask, and arguing with the servers and hosts. The description of these people’s behaviors was amazing and disappointing. Additionally, I have seen television reports about people even getting physically aggressive when asked to wear a mask. Yet I have also seen the opposite behaviors, acts of kindness, and politeness when going into public places, such as the post office. I have observed people holding the door open for others and exhibiting patience in long lines. It is interesting to note the range of reactions to stress, fear, and the new social distancing. During this time, I personally have been trying to modify my behavior, and have discovered that keeping six feet apart has been my most difficult issue. I am in the habit of hugging, talking at a normal distance for conversation, and being able to observe facial expressions hidden by a mask. Social distancing is not at all the norm in our country, and certainly not in the state of Texas. It has truly been said, “these are unprecedented times.”
The wide spectrum of responses we’ve all seen and experienced should prompt important introspection for Christians particularly: how does GOD want us to conduct ourselves in these difficult times? In searching for His wisdom and perspective, I recalled significant verses about the “pure wisdom from heaven” that is identified as peace loving, humble, and considerate of others. James 3:13 begins, “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” (NIV). Verse 17 reveals how God’s wisdom, a wisdom that is pure and undefiled by the world, should guide our behavior:
“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” (James 3:17, NIV).
These words are God’s “how-to” for relationships and really for getting along with everyone — those we love and strangers, alike. We all want wisdom and it is there for the asking. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally.” The David Jeremiah Study Bible explains, “When we ask for wisdom (James 1:5), we are actually asking God to develop in us a skill for facing the issues of life. Thankfully, He promises that when we ask for wisdom He will be faithful to answer.” Let’s take a closer look at the specific characteristics of God-given wisdom given to us in James 3:17.
Seven Characteristics of “Wisdom from Above”:
- Pure – spiritually undefiled. God’s wisdom is pure, “holy” (set apart from worldly “wisdom”).
- Peace-loving -inclined to avoid conflict or aggression, peaceable, filled with peace. Paul teaches us in Colossians 3:12-15, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” David Jeremiah explains, “When the peace of God follows the purity of God’s wisdom into our hearts and lives, it will affect those around us.”
- Considerate – gentle, kind, meek (power under control), modest, courteous, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate. Proverbs 15:1 teaches, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Matthew 5:5 adds, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
- Submissive – accommodating, willing to yield, willing to take instructions, listens to reason, attentive, willing to listen, reasonable, compliant, easy to entreat, not self-willed. As I think of this, I consider how easy it is to be prideful and want to have my own way, but 1 Peter 5:5 warns us, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (NIV).
- Full of mercy and good fruit – full of compassion, filled with love. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). David Jeremiah explains (p. 1288), “For Christians, mercy is Spirit-led ability to manifest practical, compassionate, and cheerful love toward those suffering.” Good fruit, good deeds, come from those who show mercy. James 3:18 adds, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
- Impartial – without judging, unwavering, without variance, not partial or biased, fair. To be godly-wise means not changing or modifying our behavior based on who we are around.
- Sincere – without hypocrisy; unfeigned, practical, compassionate, cheerful love; genuine.
Did you notice how perfectly these character qualities reflect the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Only Jesus’s Spirit within us can produce this fruit. Without Him, we would have no fruit and none of the wisdom James describes. Paul further explains in verses 24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” My prayer is that we all would apply God’s true wisdom from heaven during these times and experience the harvest of righteousness that follows. The Amplified Bible explains, “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness (spiritual maturity) is sown in peace by those who make peace [by actively encouraging goodwill between individuals]” (James 3:18, AMP).
In summary, as we consider God’s truth and direction in these verses, His instruction is to use wisdom, to choose to assimilate these characteristics into our lives. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.828, further clarifies, “Wisdom is not measured by [academic] degrees but by deeds. It is not a matter of acquiring truth in lectures but of applying truth to life. The truly wise man is humble.” The key word here is “humble.” A humble person is not prideful or arrogant; they are courteous and respectful. This person chooses to be wise in all their ways, implementing God-given skills as they face the issues of life.
Holy Father, I want the pure wisdom that is from heaven. Help me to fully understand and develop this skill. Move me to respond to difficult situations as You lead me. I know that through the help of the Holy Spirit, I can respond with humility, wisdom, and love. Help me to guard against the world’s way of reacting. Lord, guide my words and actions that I would use wisdom in all my conduct. Teach me to “number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.
“For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (Proverbs 8:11, NIV).