There is so much to learn and apply from each of the qualities of heavenly wisdom that James gives in this verse. I’ve decided to publish them one quality at a time. I don’t want you to miss anything that I am learning!
Here in verse 17, James lists seven qualities that describe the “wisdom from above”. We also find these qualities mentioned by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-12. He calls those “blessed” (happy, joyful) who possess these qualities, As we study each of these descriptions, consider how they were evident in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, consider whether or not they are evident in your life.
These descriptions of the “wisdom from above” are also closely related to the fruit of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, just as the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 are closely related to earthly wisdom. At each moment we are either being controlled by the Spirit of God or by our own sinful flesh. At each moment we are either exercising godly wisdom or earthly wisdom. I think that deep down inside we know this to be true. As we study each of these qualities of godly wisdom we will, hopefully, understand the inter-relationship between these two passages more clearly.
James 3:17 begins with the words, “But the wisdom from above is first pure.” We use the word “pure” in expressions and descriptions quite often. Let me give you a few examples. “Pure water” – water that is free from dirt, pollutants, and other unwanted or infectious elements. There is “pure gold” that is genuine, without flaws, imperfections or other alloys. We use the term “pure breed” or “pure bred” to refer to an unmixed ancestry. A “pure tone” in music has a single frequency and is without discord. The expressions “pure as a newborn baby” and “pure as the driven snow” imply innocence, faultlessness. Finally the phrase “pure coincidence” intensifies the word by implying “nothing but” or “nothing else”.
The Greek word translated “pure” carries with it these shades of meaning. Notice in verse 17 that James writes: “First pure”. He obviously wants this quality to be at the top of his list. Does the previous passage of Scripture dealing with “worldly wisdom” have something to do with it? I think so. Wisdom from above, Godly wisdom, comes from a pure heart. It is free from jealousy and selfish motives. Evangelist Billy Graham said, “The secret of purity is God. Get a pure heart from God.” Without a pure devotion to God, none of the other characteristics of Godly wisdom would be possible.
King David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 24:3-4 speaks of “clean hands and a pure heart”. God is not going to empower us and use us if our hearts aren’t cleansed from sin, and our lives aren’t consecrated to Him.
This empowering applies not only to the public part of our lives, but also to our private lives, to the little things, the unseen things, the thoughts and attitudes that we ignore or take for granted. Like the old Ivory Soap commercial, God doesn’t want us to be “99 and 44/100ths percent pure”, but 100 percent pure. The Daily Bread devotional in 2007 contained a reading entitled “Only A Rivet”. It brings the point across very clearly and powerfully.
Scientists have determined that faulty rivets may have caused the rapid sinking of the “unsinkable” HMS Titanic. According to researchers who recently examined parts recovered from the wreck, impure rivets made of wrought iron rather than steel caused the ship’s hull to open like a zipper. The Titanic proves the foolishness of spending resources on fancy equipment and public promotion while neglecting the “ordinary” parts. Although rivets seem insignificant, they are essential for holding the ship together and keeping it afloat. So too, we Christians, by the grace of God, must be free from defect even in the “little things” in order to stand firm against the pressures of this world’s selfishness and corruption.
I’m concluding this section with the words of the apostle Peter to Christians scattered because of their committment to Christ. Peter says in I Peter 2:1-3, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy, and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
I hope that you are a true child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and that this relationship to Him is evidenced by a love for, and desire for, the pure Word of God as your true source of heavenly wisdom. I hope that you are also putting aside the wisdom of this world as you grow in the knowledge of Him. Peter concludes this letter by saying: “Peace be to you all who are in Christ”.
With the Lord Jesus as the Master Builder, and the Holy Spirit providing the inspiration, the blueprint and the tools, the work progresses. Please stop by again.