We turn now to James 3:13-18, one of the favorite sections in James for many Christians. I want to quote the whole passage today so you can read it in context:
wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life,
by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then
peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
The opening question is important and I re-phrase it: What are the characteristics of the person who is wise? of the person who has understanding?
Do we ask this question often enough? Do we focus our lives on gaining wisdom? Clearly, the Eastern world has focused more on wisdom and the Western world more on the knowledge (as mastery of information).
The wise person is the one who (1) has absorbed, in faith and receptivity, the wisdom of the fathers of one’s faith and (2) knows what to say at the right time, knows how to live, and knows what to know — and (3) lives that wisdom in the day to day of life, (4) while also discerning the present in light of that past and for the future.