“Every good and perfect gift is from above,” James the brother of Jesus writes. This Advent we’re exploring the divine gift of wisdom that God desires to place under our trees, or into our hearts.
In James 3:14-16, we see what the counterfeit wisdom of the world looks like and produces. It is characterized by selfish-ambition, jealousy and factions, deceit and arrogance, and wherever such so-called wisdom is operative, it produces disorder and every kind of evil.
In contrast to such worldly wisdom, James 3:17-18 shows us the divine wisdom from above and what produces. The major argument of this series is that there is a wisdom that helps us get ahead, achieve personal success at the expense of others and leaves a trail of broken relationships in is wake. Jesus came to earth to show us the wisdom that helps us experience success and health in all our relationships.
We are unwrapping seven different characteristics of this divine wisdom from above found in 3:17, and how they can revolutionize our relationships with others.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. (James 3:17)
Let’s begin with the first gift today.
But the wisdom from above is…
First of all PURE.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” An impure heart is clouded by impure motives, and prone to divided loyalties. A pure heart is single minded in pursuing God’s priorities; an impure heart is pulled by the Spirit one minute, and by fleshly desires the next.
When it comes to our relationships with others, its easy to have impure motives in our dealings. We often, unknowingly, use people to further our own ends. We value people for what they can do for us, what they can offer the company, etc. Such dealings stem from an impure heart that doesn’t see God in each person we meet.
Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day because despite their ambitious religious commitments — fervent study of Scriptures, scrupulous law-keeping — they lost sight of the “weightier matters of the law” which involved seeing people through God’s eyes as worthy of love, and not merely sinners to be scorned or “unclean” people to be avoided.
The pure in heart “shall see God” — and this includes seeing the image of God stamped on every soul we interact with today — even our enemies. The pure in heart will overlook an offense today because we see God’s forgiving heart toward that person. A pure heart will strive to believe the best about everyone, because God chose to overlook our many imperfections in his love toward us.
This week may you ask God to give you a pure heart to begin to see God at work in every person you encounter. May we seek to have pure motives in all our interactions, “not looking to [our] own interests but each of [us] to the interests of the others” (Phil 2:4). As we begin to see God in others, may we find our hearts increasingly more pure.
That’s the first gift wisdom from above can give us.