Contrasts (James 3:17-18)

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17–18, AV)

When I was in high school, I got involved in photography. I had a 35mm camera and set up a darkroom in the basement to develop the film and print the pictures. At that time amateur photographers like me could not afford the equipment and supplies necessary to develop color photos. So, I shot and developed black and white prints. We have kind of lost this art in our new digital era.

One of the things that was important in black and white photography was contrast. Here I am speaking of the difference between vivid black and brilliant white. Certain methods and supplies were employed in the development of film and especially in making the prints that would enhance or soften the contrast. Contrast was important to make the images sharp, it widened the range between the dark shades and the light grays. There was a way by adjusting the contrast to take an image and turn it to just black and white with no mid-range shades at all. I could create some unique images in this way with more of an artistic feel.

It was interesting to look at an image with no gray areas. Everything was either black or white. It is the same with wisdom. There is heavenly wisdom and there is earthly demonic wisdom. There is no middle ground. You have either one or the other. James previously pointed out that there was a wisdom from below. He indicated that it was earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is characterized by pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, and deception. In stark contrast, there is a wisdom from above.

He stated that the wisdom from above, that is heavenly wisdom, is first and foremost pure. It flows forth from the essence of God, Himself. It is altogether holy, good, merciful, just, and true. James lists some of the characteristics of this heavenly wisdom that are a result of this purity. He states that this wisdom is peaceable; it brings peace rather than disharmony. It is gentle rather than harsh. It is easy to be intreated, that is compliant rather than obstinate. It is full of mercy. It produces good fruits, referring to good works. It is without partiality, being fair to all. It is also without hypocrisy; it is sincere.

When you compare the characteristics of earthly wisdom with that which comes from above, it is easy to see how the wisdom from above is infinitely superior to that which is from below. The two contrasting types of wisdom absolutely produces contrasting results. Earthly wisdom produces a harvest of unrighteousness and strife, while heavenly wisdom produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.

In our daily lives, we as must consider where we stand in the area of wisdom. Do we display the characteristics of heavenly wisdom or earthly wisdom? The difference is clear. There are only a couple possibilities if one finds his or her decisions are characterized by earthly wisdom. First, this one may never have come to true faith in Christ accompanied by the corresponding work of the Spirit in changing the person’s nature. Second, the person may be responding to situations in the flesh and not by the Spirit. In this case there is a need for confession, repentance, and refocusing one’s life to seeking God and his righteousness.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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