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. James 3:17
I’ll never forget what transpired one day after school when my oldest son was in kindergarten. We sat at the kitchen table for a snack and started to chat about the morning. “Did you do anything fun today?” I asked. I never suspected he would use the s-word.
“Yes, we played outside on the playground. Johnny kicked the ball and hit Amy in the head. He’s so stupid,” he stated as he shook his head at the mishap.
My mom alarm sounded, and I gasped. “You didn’t say that to him, did you, Michael?”
He replied, “No, I ‘leaved’ it in my head.”
Oh, if only all of us could remember that many times, the wisest decision we can make is to leave things in our heads!
The Weight of Words
The book of James is chock-full of wisdom and a massive part of that? Learning to tame the tongue. James might be called the New Testament counterpart to Proverbs. The writer shares object lessons to drive home life principles. As our community at Million Praying Moms prepares for a month of praying through the book of James, (get your prayer calendar here) let’s examine a few of the wise words he offers.
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5b
Years ago, my husband and I enjoyed visiting the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. As we climbed up the mountain trail, we noticed several signs that included photos of the famous Smoky the Bear. Various slogans and sayings accompanied the message to keep the forest safe from fire, but the one that stood out the most to me said, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
The same thing is true of our words, with one exception. Yes, each of us is responsible for owning and honing our words, but James explains that we don’t have the necessary power to tame our tongues in totality as humans.
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:7
Ouch! Those are strong words, Mr. James! And yet, how many of us have experienced strong doses of conversations that left us ill?
“Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:12b
Outside the rural Appalachian town where I grew up, a freshwater spring flows from the side of the mountain. For as long as I can remember, water has flowed from deep within the rock crevices. This water tastes 100% pure and is free of any contamination. There is no way for this mountain spring to produce saltwater because the conditions deep inside the mountain don’t allow it.
There’s more to the problem of holding the tongue than the fact that, as humans, we are limited. James declares that the tongue serves as the fountain of the heart, and this declaration leads to why we need wisdom from God.
The Wisdom of Heaven
Have you ever met someone who happily declares they are unwilling to forgive? Or have you ever met a person who creates a moral appearance but whose motives are selfish? Their decisions and deeds stem from a place of pride and earthly wisdom of gaining ground but are rooted in evil. James begins verse 17 with a contrasting word, “but,” and then he follows it with a beautiful description of heavenly wisdom. Pray through today’s key verse with me?
Lord, purify my heart.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;”
I’m reminded of David, the psalmist, and his prayer to God after committing adultery and murder, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) When we seek forgiveness and choose to turn away from sin, wisdom is birthed in our hearts.
Father, give me a love for peace.
A heart primed for heaven will promote peace. James says it’s wise to plant seeds of peace because those seeds yield good fruit.
Lord, prompt me to think of others first.
Some Bible translations use the word “gentle” instead of “considerate.” Gentle words stand out in a world of harshness. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Father, please fill me with mercy.
“full of mercy and good fruit,”
James wasn’t half-hearted about mercy. He didn’t want enough compassion to get by on; he said wisdom is over-the-top merciful.
Lord, make me impartial and sincere.
“impartial and sincere.”
Wisdom doesn’t play favorites or exercise hypocrisy. Wisdom from heaven treats all people equally and sincerely. God genuinely loves people, and his insight will enable us to love as he does. 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. James 3:17
Let’s pray together!
A PRAYER FOR WISDOM
Father, I need your heavenly wisdom; it’s something I cannot conjure up on my own. Forgive me and purify me; you are the only one who can cleanse my heart. God, let the peace that exceeds understanding fill me and flow through me. Could you open my eyes to see others first? Please fill me with mercy and all the good things that grow from harboring your heavenly wisdom. Show me how to be reasonable and honorable in treating others. Thank you, Jesus, for the wisdom to do these things beyond my abilities. Amen.RACHEL WOJO is the author of One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up and 31 Days of Prayers for your Heart. In addition, she has written over 20 Bible reading plans and hosted Bible reading challenges for over a decade on her popular blog, rachelwojo.com. As parents to 6 children on earth and 2 in heaven, Rachel and her husband enjoy their family in Columbus, OH.