Over the past three months we have examined each of the qualities of heavenly wisdom in detail. I hope that it has been a learning and growing experience for you also. We have already studied the devastating results that are produced by the exercise of human wisdom. As verse 16 explains, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (NIV) Here in verse 18, the apostle James now summarizes the results that occur when heavenly wisdom is exercised. He describes these results in one short, compact sentence: “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (NKJV version).
I. THE ONES WHO SOW
I especially like the NIV translation for this verse of Scripture because it seems to me that it brings out the intent of the writer very clearly. It reads: “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” The ones who sow are the peacemakers. James uses the word “peace” here to refer to the right relationship between man and man, not between man and God. But how can we have real outward peace with others if we do not have an inward peace with God?
James wants peace in the church and among the believers in it. He knows that peace is the only environment in which righteousness can flourish. The wisdom of this world produces trouble, whereas the wisdom from above produces peace among men.
God hates a troublemaker. Proverbs 6:16-19 says: “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” God opposes church splits and discord among the brethren. But God loves a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 says: Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”
II. THE PROCESS
But peacemaking is not easy. The Revised Standard Version translates James 3:18 in this way: “And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” It is the peacemaker who sows the seeds of peace, and that isn’t an easy job. You have to work hard to cultivate peace. Do fruit and grain grow up by themselves and take care of themselves? Do they produce an abundant harvest all by themselves? No! Ask any farmer! There is a lot of work involved. There’s the cultivation of the ground, adding fertilizer, sowing the seeds or planting seedlings, watering, weeding or spraying weeds, pruning, waiting, hoping, praying. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you automatically get along with others and never have conflicts. As individuals, and as churches, we need to work hard to cultivate peace with one another, listen to one another, express appreciation for one another, show kindness to one another, and settle arguments peaceably. The following illustration is just one example of the peacemaking process:
The small town of Umbarger, Texas, was an unlikely place for an international work of art. But toward the end of World War II, seven Italian prisoners of war, who were being held at a large camp nearby, were chosen to decorate the church’s plain brick walls. The prisoners were reluctant to aid their captors, but they agreed on the condition that their efforts be considered a contribution toward Christian brotherhood and understanding. But as they worked on their paintings and a woodcarving of the Last Supper, one of the POW’s later recalled, “A spontaneous stream of good feelings began almost at once to flow among us. No one spoke of the war or the past because ‘we were here for a work of peace and love’.” (Our Daily Bread, Nov. 8, 2011)
In II Timothy 2:24-25, Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, encouraging him to be gentle and patient when relating to others. The following are Paul’s words: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”
I’ve taught each of the evidences of wisdom from above one quality at a time. Now let’s put them all together. James 3:17 says: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.” (NIV) A person who possesses these qualities will be a peacemaker. Wouldn’t you agree? So if you truly want to be the peacemaker that God wants you to be, focus on these qualities and work at developing them in your life, by God’s enabling and for His glory,
III. THE RESULTS
As a result of our peacemaking efforts done by the grace of God, we will reap a harvest of God’s blessing in our lives and in the lives of others. God’s righteousness and justice will also be evident and appeciated. Let’s ask the Lord to use us as His peacemakers so that He might be glorified, and we might be a source of joy to others.
When I was a child in Catholic school, my whole class memorized a prayer by Francis of Assisi. I imagine that many of you have read this prayer before, but this time let’s read it slowly and make up our minds that, by the grace of God, we will put these words into practice in our relationships with others, whether we like those people or not. If so, we will begin to reverse the divisive and hurtful effects of man’s wisdom in our communities today. Here is a portion of that prayer:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to seek to be understood, as to understand; to seek to be loved, as to love . . . ”
May the Lord bless you, and as a peacemaker, may you be a source of blessing and joy to others!