As you quiet yourself for this brief time, be willing to be open to God in whatever way that may take place.
James 3:13-18 (NRSV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
One time, there was this part of town that was up and coming. It seemed it would quickly become kind of a hot spot in town with local restaurants and live music, and many of us were excited about it. I remember towards the end of the development, some new policies were enacted, one of which seemed to target the poor. Essentially, if you looked like you didn’t belong to the class of people these businesses were hoping to draw in, security could send you away from the area. When I was discussing the unfairness of this rule, a friend of mine said, rather simply, “It’s bad for business. Customers don’t want a bunch of poor people hanging around.” Honestly, what he said made sense to me, and I’d bet it does to you, too. Surely, we can all follow that logic, but are we called to act on it?
James mentions two kinds of wisdom. It’s clear that James considers one of them of good nature and one of bad, but perhaps they’re both considered “wisdom” because acting out of the bad will seem the smart, logical thing to do, especially by those outside of the faith community. Regardless of the logic, James is encouraging us to resist the temptation to act out of selfishness. Instead, he urges us to act out of the wisdom of God, which calls us to be gentle and merciful, creating peace and good fruits. It is this wisdom that will rid us of the hypocrisy we experience when we claim to love our neighbor as ourselves but choose to do what is best for us despite them. As people of faith, both kinds of wisdom make sense to us, but I think our call is clear: to resist the wisdom of the world and embrace the wisdom of God, who is loving and good.
Holy God, your ways are best known to us in your son, Jesus. We would be wise to follow him and live the way he lives. When decisions regarding ourselves and others aren’t easy to make, O God, give us strength. May our call to live in your wisdom become and remain a high priority in our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Go with God!