In James 1:5 we find this wonderful promise for God, as He says:
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and with no reproach, and it shall be given to him.”
What God is offering us is the gift of His divine wisdom, which is quite different to the wisdom of man.
God’s divine wisdom is not with us all the time at our beck and call. Instead, it comes as God considers we need it, for the benefit of ourselves or others. Solomon appears to be the only man who walked in what could be considered divine wisdom most of the time, as First King’s 4:29-30 says: “And God gave Solomon exceeding great wisdom and understanding, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the sons of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt.”
As we read further into the General Epistle of James, the brother of Jesus, James lays out for us the marks of divine wisdom as he saw them. James 3:17 puts it this way:
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
Let us unfold this verse and understand the Characteristics of the gift of Divine Wisdom which James clarifies for us:
1 Divine Wisdom of “from above.” It is not something over which we have control and is given to us as a gift as God sees fit. However, just because it is a gift, does not mean we should not seek after it or ask God fir it, for that is exactly what James 1:5 requires of us. If we don’t have it, it may well be, as James 4:2 says “… you have not because you ask not.”
2 Divine Wisdom is “pure.” It is chaste, it is holy and it is pure. The Greek for pure used here is ‘hagnos’ [ ἁγνός ] meaning also innocent, modest and perfect; in other words, it is not in any way sensual. It means First in both rank and time.
3 Divine Wisdom is “Peaceable.” The Greek is ‘eirēnikos’ [εἰρηνικός ], meaning salutary, peaceable, pacific, loving peace, brining peace with it, peaceful. The Wisdom of God, therefore, does not bring fear, or worry or concern. The Wisdom of God gets to the heart of the matter and sets aside all other human emotions to deliver peace, and deliver it abundantly.
As a side note here: When we study peace we need to recognise that peace at any price is unbiblical. The loving peace mentioned here, can also mean bringing peace, as in Hebrews 12:11 (the only other New Testament example), but clearly great as peace is, purity (righteousness) comes before peace and peace at any price is not worth the having. For this reason, Jesus spurned Satan’s peace of surrender.
4 Divine Wisdom is “Gentle.” It is meek, it is modest, it is kind and is not self-attention grabbing. ‘Epieikēs’ [ἐπιεικής ] means mild, gentle, in moderation, patient, suitable, equitable, fair and seemingly.
5 Divine Wisdom is “open to reason” or easily entreated. It is not stubborn, or obstinate, but yielding to others, easily obeying, compliant and approachable, all from the Greek ‘eupeithēs’ [εὐπειθής ]. Open to reason, means of a yielding disposition in all indifferent things; obsequious, docile. In other words, we are not standing on our own position and dictating our own terms.
6 Diving Wisdom is “full of mercy.” It is ready to pass by a transgression (an unintentional sin) and to grant forgiveness to those who offend, and performing every possible act of kindness and practical help, ‘eleos’ [ ἔλεος ]. As Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines mercy:
“kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them; 1a) of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one’s self merciful; 1b) of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ; 1c) the mercy of Christ, whereby at his return to judgement he will bless true Christians with eternal life”
7 Diving Wisdom is “full of good fruits.” Good fruits, ‘karpos’ [καρπός ] here also means good deeds the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:11) as well as those from Galatians 5:22-23 “… the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Divine wisdom is a compassion and beneficence to the poor; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the widows and fatherless in their affliction; and doing all other good works and duties, both with respect to God and man, as fruits of both grace, and of the Spirit.
8 Divine Wisdom is “impartial,” without partiality and being of no respect to persons. ‘Adiakritos’ [ἀδιάκριτος ] means without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty. In other words, it is clear that Divine Wisdom does not pander to the man, or a person’s celebrity or worth in worldly terms.
James 2:1-10 also speaks to this impartiality aspect for divine wisdom to which all Christians are expected to aspire, saying:
“My brothers, do not have the faith of our Lord Christ, the Lord of glory, with respecter of faces. For if there comes a gold-fingered man in fancy clothing into your assembly, and if there also comes in a poor man in shabby clothing, and if you have respect to him who has the fancy clothing and say to him, You sit here in a good place, and say to the poor, You stand there, or sit here under my footstool; Did you not make a difference among yourselves and became judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?
But you dishonoured the poor one.
Do not rich men oppress you and draw you before the judgement seats? Do they not blaspheme that worthy Name by which you are called?
If you fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you do well. But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
9 Divine Wisdom is “sincere,” and without hypocrisy. The Greek ‘anupokritos’ [ἀνυπόκριτος ] here means unfeigned, undisguised, sincere. It means we are no putting on an act, either with respect to God or man; not making show of that which they have not, or do not intend. As Wikipedia says: “Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.” Hypocrisy comes from the original word meaning ‘play acting’ or ‘acting out’ and ‘coward.’ When we are sincere, as Christians are required to be in all things and at all times, then what we outwardly demonstrate is the same as that which inwardly drives us and which we inwardly believe and have faith in.
Taken together or separately, these Characteristics of Divine Wisdom are also characteristics which every Christian life is intended and expected to mirror. These characteristics are divine and we who are the Temple of God must reflect that which is inside us, the Spirit of God (First Corinthians 3:16).