“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.” (James 3:17, New English Translation)
Our topic that Sunday was wisdom—what it is and how to obtain it. The class discussion was lively and on target. Together we developed a good working definition of what the Bible meant when it talked about wisdom. Then we began to discuss how this relates to our everyday lives. What traits does a wise person possess?
During our discussion, I threw out a random question to the group. In Acts 6 we read that a problem had surfaced in the young church. Those speaking Greek felt their widows were not receiving equal treatment with the Hebrew widows during the daily distribution of food. To head off the growing complaints and to be sure there was no partiality, the apostles came up with a plan. “But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task.” (verse 3, NET). My question to the group was this: Why was wisdom a requirement when they were only serving food—something we might consider a menial task.
As the group thought about this situation, Judy spoke up. She related how her home fellowship group sometimes goes downtown to feed the homeless. She described how they always treat those they serve with respect, carefully preparing the plates of food according to the person’s preferences. This was nothing the group had been instructed to do, she told us, but each instinctively responded with kindness, treating each person with dignity.
Responding as God Would
I think Judy answered our question very well with her story of feeding the homeless. It is the wise person who realizes that each of us—regardless of how we are dressed, how much money we possess, or where we live—is made in the image of God. He loves the down and out street dweller just as much as the rich with a prestigious address. When we perform an act of kindness, we are responding to that person as God Himself would.
James 3:17 defines wisdom in everyday terms: pure, peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. It offers insight as to how God wants us to live and interact with others.
Many people may never enter a church or hear a sermon. They may never own or read a Bible. Unless someone demonstrates the love of God through living, active faith, how will they ever realize His love and mercy? Colossians 4:5 tells us, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities” (NET). Our lives may be the only sermon they hear—not audible words but actions filled with love.
You may be the only face of God someone sees today.