The Wisdom of James

This entry is part 25 of 26 in the series A Life of Wisdom

James inverts the world’s value system. He tells us to rejoice in trials (James 1:2), to be quick to hear and slow to speak (v. 19), to have a spirit of meekness (v. 21), and even to boast about the ways God exalts the humble and humiliates the proud (vv. 9–10).

Doers of the Word (James 1)

In these inversions, James reveals the stark contrast between the way of the Word and the way of the world. If we do not actively allow the Word of God to shape our hearts and reveal our hidden inclinations, the world will define us by default. That is why James insists that we become “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22 NASB).

How can we obey James’s instruction? Here is an experiment you can try. For just one day, count up the time you spend getting your information from the world (watching the news, browsing the internet, social media, etc.). Then challenge yourself to match each minute you spent doing that with a minute spent in the Word. If you were able to that for one day, see if you can continue this practice for the following days as well.

This experiment may seem like an impossible task at first, given the amount of media we consume on a daily basis. But the idea is that eventually we can displace much of our time invested in the world with time in the Word. With this regular exposure to the Word, our natural temporal outlook will give way to an eternal one. And suddenly we will see the anxieties that once consumed us in their proper perspective.

Two Kinds of Wisdom (James 3:13–18)

James continues to contrast the Word and the world by describing two kinds of wisdom—wisdom from above and wisdom from below. Wisdom from above is “pure,” “peaceable,” and results in good works (James 3:17). Wisdom from below, on the other hand, revolves around jealousy and selfish ambition (vv. 14–16).

Worldly wisdom can lead to nothing but division, arrogance, and folly. And our natural inclination is to subtly succumb to this kind of living. Therefore, we must allow the Word to replace the mindset of the world, and the only way to have the strength to do this is to look regularly to the Word to inform all that we hear and do in this world.

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