Ezekiel 12-15; James 3-5

Week Number

James and Proverbs are both books that discuss the benefits of wisdom while giving many practical examples on how to obtain or measure it. This may be one of the reasons that these biblical books are often among people’s favorites, for few of us would claim to have mastered wisdom.

But James declares that wisdom can be mastered and tells of the choices made by those who are wise. “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise!” (James 3:13).

James says if we are wise, one of our choices will be to live a life of steady goodness. Steady goodness is consistent and without noteworthy changes in pace or goals. In contrast, an unsteady goodness would be weak, wavering, and causing others to be unsure of what to expect.

Goodness has many traits, and James gives some examples of goodness in relationship to wisdom. He says it is “first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere” (James 3:17). James’ explanation of steady goodness echoes many aspects of the description of love found in First Corinthians 13. Those echoes are fitting, for a life of steady goodness will be characterized by loving action to others.

As we take a hard look at the list in verse 17, we will more than likely see areas where God has brought us into maturity and areas where we need to focus if we are to become more like Jesus. Are we “pure,” seeking to please God at all times, or only when it conveniently lines up with what we want? Are we globally “peace-loving,” trying to make a difference in the midst of the turbulence faced by many around the world, or are we indifferent to those needs? Are we locally “peace-loving,” or do we participate in petty quarrels, backbiting, and gossip? Are we “gentle at all times” with others, or is it hard to keep our frustration in check with those who differ from us or with us? Do we “yield to others,” or do we insist on our rights and expect others to yield to us? Do we show “mercy” to others, or do we judge them? Do we see the value in each person, even those who are not valued by this world, or do we show “partiality”? Are we “always sincere” when we deal with others, or do we have hidden motives? Where is God showing us we need to change, if we are to become truly wise?

James ends verse 13 by reminding us that, to be truly wise, we should not “brag about the good” we do. James is not saying we should not talk about the ways we are living a life of steady goodness, for our examples can be an encouragement to others to do the same. But he is saying that we need to credit God, not ourselves, since it is God who enables us to be steady in doing good.

Pursuing a life of steady goodness becomes both possible and desirable as we depend on God for help in aligning our actions and thoughts with His. There can be no better goal and no better life.


© 2010 Arlina Yates 

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