Photo taken by Ian Tan
As a young teenager, I attended a women’s Bible study with my mother where I observed, listened to, and learned from other women who had more life experience. As I studied the Bible alongside these women and heard them discuss difficult biblical topics as well as share about their trials, there was one person who stood out.
Her name was Rita, and she was the Bible study leader.
Rita was always slow to speak (1:19); patiently waiting; listening to and considering the thoughts of others; weighing what they said; seeking to learn yet discerning whatever was said, to make sure it was aligned with Scripture. Whenever the conversation turned into something that wasn’t edifying, Rita would gently direct the discussion back to focus on God.
Rita’s words and actions gave me a glimpse of what heavenly wisdom ought to be like.
Her life exemplified some of the characteristics that are found in James 3:17-18.
Pure: It means untainted. It involves a resolute commitment to keep oneself wholly clean from any form of defilement, such as “bitter envy and selfish ambition” (3:14), as mentioned in the previous verses.
Peace-loving: It literally means peaceful. A peaceful spirit is one that longs for peace and rejoices in making peace. This can be difficult to practice, especially when conversing with people who hold varying opinions.
Considerate: As fallen human beings, we make mistakes. To practice consideration means to gently point the other person to the right path without making them feel bad about their weaknesses or ignorance. It means to think kindly of another.
Submissive: This refers to an openness in listening to others and a willingness to submit oneself to being persuaded when it’s based on reason and biblical principles. It entails a humble attitude to change one’s mind if found proven wrong. It is having a teachable, open spirit.
Mercy and good fruit: This is not simply pity and sympathy, but compassion in action. In Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit is listed as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Each of these qualities involves action.
Impartial: This means to show no favoritism. As we relate to the world and people around us, we are to be fair and equal in our treatment toward all—just as God would.
Sincere: Without hypocrisy. A person who embodies sincerity is transparent—what you see is what you get. They are ready to admit that they are not perfect, and they do their best to uphold their values.
James concludes this passage by speaking of the fruit of heavenly wisdom—righteousness.
At the end of the day, James calls us to pursue the righteous life that God so desires by starting with the pursuit of heavenly wisdom.
There’s a lot to heavenly wisdom, but it is possible to live our lives with these characteristics!
If you’re like me and struggling to live this out, a good place to start is simply to pray for wisdom. As James says at the start of his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God” (1:5)—and God promises to give generously to all who asks and believes by faith.
—Julie Schwab, USA
Questions for reflection
Julie Schwab lives in Virginia, USA, for school, but has hopes that it’s God’s plan for her to move back to her home state of Michigan as soon as she finishes her degree. She has enjoyed moving from city to city for school but is looking forward to settling in a place she can call home that’s closer to friends and family. Although busy with school, she enjoys writing and playing the guitar, both of which she views as creative forms of worship that are necessary for her to process and understand God and the life He has given her.
Return to YMI Reading James Homepage