James 3 warns about how dangerous your words can be. But you already knew that. How many time have you wished that you could grab back the hurtful words that have raced from your lips; careless, angry words that have produced distance from those you love? Fortunately, James 3:13-18 describes what makes your words so destructive and provides the Holy Spirit’s alternative.
You can either speak out of wisdom from below or wisdom from above.
How does this work?
Wisdom from below frequently masquerades as concern for righteousness. It’s focus is on being right. If you are right nothing else matters. Obeying God and avoiding evil becomes the motivation that justifies frustration, irritation and confrontation with your children or even your spouse. However, this singular focus produces brokenness and dysfunction. This is wisdom from below at work. All that matters is what is right.
Wisdom from below produces “fake” righteousness. You can identify wisdom from below by the fruit it produces. Wisdom from above produces a harvest of peace. So, if your “wisdom” does not result in peace, you are practicing “fake”, counterfeit wisdom. Verse 17 of this packed chapter describes what wisdom from above looks like. Let’s break it down, phrase by phrase.
Wisdom from above is:
Pure – this means your concern is not about your convenience, your comfort or your image. Your focus is on showing the beauty and wonder of God.
Peaceable – this means that when problems arise your approach is focused on reconciliation and peace, not retribution and frustration.
Gentle – being gentle is much more than an attitude. Scripture describes gentleness as the weapon you use to combat angry words, opposition, turmoil. Gentleness is what it means to be like Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Open to reason – this component of wisdom from above is huge. When there is a conflict with your children, do they know that you will be open to reason and that they will be heard with patience and grace?
Full of mercy and good fruits – this means being someone who is dominated by mercy and not just obsessed with making things right. This means that, like Christ does with you, the sins and struggles of your children will be met with mercy, even when discipline is required.
Impartial and sincere – this means that your children know that you will not favor one over the other or your wants over theirs. It means that they know you are sincere in honoring God as your first priority.
Deploying wisdom from above requires humility and the power of God’s Spirit. It is wisdom from above that produces a place of refuge and peace for your children. It is wisdom from above that truly shows the beauty of Christ. Watch out for the deceptive cunning of wisdom from below. Bring God’s peace to your children. Become that place of refuge so that you can be the godly resource your children need.
Join the Conversation
How have you found it helpful to make sure your words are wisdom from above?
About the Author:
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay lives in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.