“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
True wisdom is evident in a person’s behavior.
What is true wisdom? James answers that question in verse 17 by pointing out the characteristics or qualities of true wisdom. After purity, the next quality is “peaceable,” which means “peace loving” or “peace promoting.” It refers to someone who doesn’t create confusion or disorder. He doesn’t promote himself or compromise truth but makes peace.
True wisdom is also “gentle.” A gentle person will submit to dishonor, disgrace, mistreatment, and persecution with an attitude of humility, courteousness, kindness, patience, and consideration. He will not display hatred, malice, or revenge.
True wisdom is also characterized as “reasonable.” It refers to someone who is willing to yield, who is easily persuaded, teachable, and compliant. It was used of a person who willingly submitted to military discipline or who observed legal and moral standards in life and willingly submitted to them. A wise person manifests such “reasonable” traits concerning God’s standards for life.
“Full of mercy” refers to someone who shows concern for people who suffer and is quick to forgive. He demonstrates kindness and compassion toward others.
“Good fruits“ refer to all good works in general or a wide variety of spiritual deeds. The Christian demonstrates the genuineness of his salvation through his good deeds—works that are produced by faith (James 2:14-20) and are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) or “the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11).
“Unwavering” refers to someone who is consistent and doesn’t vacillate. He is undivided in his commitment, doesn’t make unfair distinctions, and is sincere in his faithfulness to God.
“Without hypocrisy” is the climax of true wisdom and speaks of someone who is utterly genuine. He isn’t a phony or fake. A truly wise person manifests sincere behavior.
If true wisdom is part of your life, it will be evident in your behavior. Make it your aim to reflect the qualities of true wisdom so that others may see Christ in you.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you develop the qualities of true wisdom in your life. But before you do, make sure you’re being motivated by a pure heart.
For Further Study
Read Matthew 5:1-16, noting how the words of Christ parallel James 3:17.
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187