13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:13 - 18 (NRSV)
James’ main thesis is obviously that genuine wisdom always shows up as a Godly life of gentleness and good deeds. You hardly see much of that in today’s world! It is truly, the best of times; the worst of times. We live in an age of unparalleled healthcare advances and technology that keeps making you say, WOW! We’ve made monumental forward steps in race and gender equality.
But these are troubling times, despite all the good news. Among the more troubling, disturbing realities is the escalating violence in our culture, particularly in our children. This week’s shootings at Chardon High School near Cleveland turned the conversation back to the Columbine tragedy of ten years ago.
Families are under an enormous load of stress due to the economic crisis; the divorce rate, physical and sexual abuse (particularly of children) continues to soar off the charts.
It is difficult to overstate the need for personal and community peace in a world like ours. But it sometimes seems as if peace in this lifetime is only a mirage.
There are those who would suggest different ways of dealing with the lack of personal peace;
· Drop out – find an island somewhere so people can’t hurt you. A childhood friend of Elizabeth’s did that; he came up to retirement age and moved to South America. No bills, family, neighbors!
· Drug up – drink, snort, or pill-pop until you can’t see the disturbances (or are just too incapacitated to care).
· Do first – is the flip side of the “Golden Rule” (Do unto others before they can do you any harm – get those suckers!)
But these are reactionary – “knee-jerks” against the pain of personal emptiness and fear of what might be coming. James says that kind of thinking is devilish, animal-like thinking. It is unwise at best, conniving at worst. To seek any kind of peace, absent of the wise and right choices guided from above, is only going to achieve an illusion.
Isaiah, an Old Testament counterpart of James suggests the way to real peace:
3You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4Trust in the LORD always,
for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.
Well, Old Testament Isaiah, and New Testament James agree on the two principal ingredients of genuine, lasting, personal peace – Let Go; Let God!
James warns against holding on to the arch-enemy of peace – bitterness. Bitterness is the one thing that is less held-onto, than holds-on-to-you, when you allow it to hang around. One minister put it this way: Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
A rabid dog bit a man. He went to the doctor and the doctor told him it was too late; he needed to prepare to meet his Maker. The doc went out of the room for a few moments, and then returned to see the man writing on a long legal pad.
I can help you find a lawyer if you need to make a will, said the doctor. Will? replied the man, I’m making a list of the people I’m gonna bite!
Bitterness grows out of envy, personal ambition, or hurt. Any of those will fester and kill personal relationships. That’s the thinking James said was devilish, or worldly. There’s a lot of that today.
Most believers would agree that letting go of bitterness is good. The question really is, HOW? How in the world do we let go of something that holds onto us like the plague? Listen to the promises in these two verses, and see if it makes sense…
Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met…. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Matthew 6:33John 14:25 (TMNT
You let go by letting God – IN! You surrender. And look what happens when you…
According to James (1.5) when you let go of the world’s ways, and ask God for His way, the wisdom to make good choices in your life begins to come your way. The seed which God plants within us when we Let Go changes us.
Now, remember, these things are like seeds, placed within you by God, when you let go of trying to control your own life, and let God have His way. You don’t do these things to become a peaceful person…you let God create these things in you.
There are a lot of things we could say about James’ statement, and would benefit to study each of the words he used. However, to summarize those words, let’s just say that when God plants seeds of His peace in you, because you open up the ground of your life to Him, that which develops in your deep-down character, is a person who has taken his stand publicly for Christ.
God teaches you to be a person of mercy and convictions; God teaches you to be a person of integrity, convinced in the faith, living a life of loving the Lord…both publicly and privately.
That sounds like quite a crop, doesn’t it? Yet, that is only the showy tassel above the corn. The real kernel – the real fruit of what grows from God’s seeds placed in your life, is the peace of God underneath everything visible.
18And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. James 3:18 (NRSV)
Peace comes when there is an atmosphere of the Kingdom life, filled with wisdom. If you chase it, demand it or try to imitate it, it will slip through your fingers like a greased pig.
When you go about seeking the kingdom of God, He plants seeds of peace in your life. The crop that follows is that condition of peace in you, around you, and in others about you which is a blessing to God, your family and your community. And it passes all understanding in you! That’s worth letting-go, so you can let-God.