But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (verses 17-18)
Peace. The word itself glides on a surface smooth and calm. More so the Hebrew word “shalom,” spreading a blanket of well-being in its wake.
Oh, how we need such peace in our day. Certainly on the world stage – oh, how we need it! To settle the ongoing clashes and carnage in Ukraine. To unravel the deadly knot of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has spilled over into brutal terrorism and the pain-filled horrors of war.
But equally, in more down to earth, human-scale interactions of persons and communities, peace is so often missing, forced aside by tensions, slights, rancour and the lingering bitterness that so easily results.
The peace that James speaks of here comes packaged in wisdom, which someone has defined as “skill for living.” What a compelling concept. Skill-training is available in so many different areas – from mechanics to computers to business to leadership. What if we could actually receive “skill for living”? And who could possibly provide it? Obviously, the best instructor would be the One who designed us in the first place, the Lord himself. This is exactly what James has in mind, for he clearly designates this as “wisdom from heaven.” Pressing further, the connection between such divinely-sourced skill and peace itself becomes obvious, for the Hebrew concept of shalom – being much bigger than mere absence of conflict – implies wholeness, completeness, and fullness of life. It is the Lord’s “skill”that allows such wholeness to truly flourish. Peace flows from wisdom. It’s the necessary source.
Just a few verses earlier, James has highlighted an entirely different kind of “wisdom” from a very different source. He identifies it as earthly wisdom, sourced in the devil himself. This is wisdom of a substandard variety that doesn’t come anywhere near “skill for living.” Indeed, it’s obvious outflow is the very opposite of peace, yielding bitter envy, selfish ambition, arrogance, deceit, disorder and every evil practice (3:14-15). We easily spot such tense “un-peace” in the world’s current events, but it readily infects everyday relationships as well.
So don’t harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your own heart. Be aware if they are taking root. They will only poison peace. By the power of the Spirit, kick them out. Embrace instead what flows from wisdom – namely peace, but also purity, consideration, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.
With all of these flowing in your life, become a peacemaker. Or better yet, become a farmer. Embrace peace so fully that you use it like a gardening tool, tilling the ground and planting seeds of righteousness – those very things we yearn for when we pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”
In practical terms, wherever you are, see yourself as an agent of the Kingdom. Live the life of peace right there. Even when it’s difficult. Even with those who rub you the wrong way. Bring peace intentionally into each relationship. Push aside envy and selfish ambition anytime they spring up. Likewise, anything else that flows from that substandard earthly wisdom. Focus on nurturing the Lord’s presence in each circumstance. Sow in peace. Just like that.
Lord Jesus, give me skill for living. You who are the Prince of Peace, pour out your peace afresh in my life. Make me watchful for the irritants of envy and selfish ambition. Strengthen me to push them aside. Give me the joy of planting seeds of your Kingdom, nurturing them with the peace you bring. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Where are you most in need of peace from the Lord today? Is there anything that would get in the way? Put it into the Lord’s hands.