The wisdom tradition in the life of Israel teaches us that the righteous prosper and the wicked perish. To a some extent this is true. If we are wise and make good choices in life, generally things will go well for us. If we are foolish and make bad choices, generally things will go poorly. That is sensible—reasonable even—except it doesn’t always work out that way.
We can all think of situations where good people suffer and foolish people succeed. Perhaps you have experienced this in your own life. Hebrew scripture even reminds us at times that the rules don’t always work. When the rules don’t work for us it can be tempting to just disregard the notion of wisdom altogether.
James reminds us how important it is to make wise choices—to live the right way—to live a humble life that pleases God. Regardless of the times when wisdom does not play out the way we’d like, James wants us to remember that it is not because wisdom is broken. Wisdom doesn’t always work because we are broken as human beings—as part of a spoiled creation that God is working to restore. Our earthly realm is too often influenced by self-centered jealousy, rivalry, and disorder.
Seek wisdom that comes from above. The wisdom of God’s realm is pure—it is a reflection of what God desires for all creation. James says the wisdom of God’s realm is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial, and sincere. These are the qualities of life that please God.
James wants us to remember that a healthy and vibrant life of faith is filled with action—good deeds that provide for the needs of others. If faith leads to action, then a wise faith will lead to wise action—action that seeks the peace of God’s realm. The first step toward peace is setting self aside and treating the concerns of others as more important than our own. That is a wise choice.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik