Living wisely
Biblestudy, Growing your faith, The book of James

Living Wisely: Insights from James 3:13-18 for a Godly Life

Do you want to be counted as wise in today’s world? In the book of James Chapter 3:13 (The Message Translation), James himself tells us three things that we can do to be counted as those who are wise. He says: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. Our lives as believers must go beyond mere talk to become a life that radiates the wisdom and love of God to a watching world. Today, let’s take a look at “Living Wisely: Insights from James 3:13-18 for a Godly Life”

Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.James 3:13 (The Message)

James 3:13-18 Explained

Shortly after teaching us about the power of the tongue and how our words have the capacity to cause great damage. James concludes this chapter of the bible by pointing us to what it truly means to be wise. He says, boasting that you are wise is not wisdom and twisting the truth to make yourself sound wise is not wisdom. True wisdom, he says, comes from God and should be seen in our lives and actions.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. – James 3:13 NLT

As believers, you show that you are wise by the way you live. Your relationships, your motives, your lifestyle, your words, your values and your actions are all pointers to the wisdom that you carry within.

James then digs a little deeper into matters of the heart. He talks about a person whose heart is full of self-centered ambition, bitter jealousy (envy), contention, rivalry and selfishness. Such person he says, is being driven by earthly wisdom. Once again, he refers us back to how our lives mirror what is going on inside our hearts. And how our hearts can become a breeding ground for all kinds of evil acts.

For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.James 3:16

What then is the starting point of getting this wisdom that can be a guiding light for our lives as Christians today? The bible lets us into one very important truth – having a deep reverence for God is the starting point of having wisdom.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

Sometimes, to get wisdom, you need to ask for it. And in his introductory chapter, James tells us that we can ask God for wisdom if we feel that we are lacking in it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5 ESV God alone is the giver of true wisdom. However, God wants you to move from just having wisdom to letting that wisdom shine through in your daily life and actions.

Are your actions done with the humility that comes from wisdom? Are you living a fruitful life guided by wisdom’s gentleness? Do you show others that you are wise by the way you live? Perhaps, a heart check needs to be done to determine if we have God’s wisdom in our lives.

In summary, the verses in James 3:13-18 provides practical advice on living wisely, shows us two kinds of wisdom and distinguishes between earthly and heavenly wisdom.

What are the Two Kinds of Wisdom?

What is true wisdom? How can you effectively distinguish between the two kinds of wisdom? In his writings, James gives us a broader view of these two kinds of wisdom by describing their source – where it comes from, their workings and their results.

But if you harbor bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast in it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice. – James 3:14-15

Firstly, James describes a wisdom that does not come from God. A wisdom that is characterized by bitterness, envy, selfish ambition which he calls earthly, unspiritual and demonic. He uses three words to describe this kind of wisdom.

Earthly: A wisdom that is secular and comes from this world. Its results and actions are derived from the earthly realm. It is a wisdom that is governed by worldly principles and knowledge.

Unspiritual: This wisdom is also described as natural. A cunning, self-centered and selfish kind of wisdom. It is one that is flesh driven, carnally minded and born from the senses – what we feel, hear and touch.

Demonic: A wisdom that is devilish and of the devil. This wisdom is under the influence of Satan’s domain, his demons and cohorts.

In the end, we see the manifestations in the life a person governed by each kind of wisdom. Think about these manifestations in the life of a man walking in earthly, natural wisdom – bitter envy, deeply rooted jealousy, selfish ambition etc. Such wisdom will only breed divisiveness, trouble, strife and all kinds of evil.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”– I Corinthians 3:19

But then, there is another wisdom which James talks about – the wisdom that comes from God. This is real wisdom and it is what will guide and help you to make wise choices and decisions in your life. The bible describes this wisdom as a more valuable commodity than gold. It also says that there is nothing you desire that could compare to her. Solomon who was the wisest king in his time tells us that it is much better to get wisdom than gold. This speaks of the value wisdom can bring into our lives as believers.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! – Proverbs 16:16

James goes further to speak about this wisdom which he describes as godly and comes from heaven. This is a wisdom that is not man-made or flesh driven. It is a wisdom given by God to spotlight us as children of his kingdom and to deliver uncommon results in our lives. It is a wisdom that drives our actions, controls our responses and enables us to live as true believers in the world today.

What are the Characteristics of Godly Wisdom?

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.James 3:17

The first characteristic of wisdom mentioned is purity. James says that the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure.  God’s wisdom is morally and spiritually undefiled. It is free from impurities and untainted. And it begins with choosing to live a life of holiness and purity. We see this wisdom deployed in the life of Joseph when his master’s wife tried to lure him to bed. But he refused.

“With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.Genesis 39:8-10

The second characteristic listed is that wisdom is peace-loving. It does not foster division, quarrelling and strife in relationships and communities. It encourages unity, understanding and embracing each other’s differences. This quality of wisdom helps us to get along with others and to be at peace with all men.

The third characteristic of wisdom is that it is considerate. God’s wisdom always shows concern and is thoughtful towards others. It is always careful not to harm others through words or actions. A wise person will not always insist on having his own way, but is often willing to make allowance for the feelings and mistakes of others.

The next quality listed is submissiveness. God’s wisdom is submissive. It is about being willing to yield to reason. A wise person is not stubborn and hard-hearted. He is often open to reason, respectful and reasonable.

James goes on to say that this wisdom that comes from God is full of mercy, good fruit, impartial and sincere. The wisdom that comes from God is gracious, forgiving and compassionate. God is called a merciful God and we ought to show mercy to others as his children.

Jesus himself said –‘by their fruits, you shall know them’. The Christian life is a fruit bearing life and the wisdom that God gives will always produce good fruits in our lives. Our lives as God’s children should bear fruits of kindness, godly character, integrity, uprightness and good works. The way we live every single day ought to point others to Christ.

God’s wisdom is sincere. It is genuine, free of pretense and deceit. A wise man is forthright, honest and not hypocritical. Lastly, God’s wisdom is impartial. It is free from favoritism and bias. A wise person will treat others with fairness, equity and justice.

5 Simple Steps to Living Wisely

Applying God’s wisdom in your daily life can be straightforward if you can focus on principles from the word of God. Here are five simple steps to help you live wisely.

1. Grow in Your Relationship with Christ.

Knowing God is where wisdom begins. The bible lets us know that Christ is the wisdom of God made manifest on the earth. And it also says that as believers, we now have the mind of Christ. As you seek to know more of Jesus and walk with him, his person will rub off on you. You will begin to think and act like Jesus.

2. Study the Word of God.

God’s wisdom is in his word. The bible is full of stories, principles and truths that cover almost every aspect of life. Psalm 19:7 – “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

3. Desire Wisdom

Seek wisdom and desire it with all your heart. It will guide your actions and decisions and help you navigate life fearlessly and purposefully. Proverbs 2:4-5 says this about wisdom, “and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Walking in the wisdom of God  can make all the difference in our lives and relationships.

4. Pray for Wisdom

You can ask God for wisdom in prayer just like you would ask him for anything. The good news is that he is more than willing to give you this wisdom. As James tell us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Is there a challenge in your life? Is your marriage going through a crisis? Do you seek answers to certain questions bugging your mind? Rather than run to people or social media for answers, go to God in prayer and ask for wisdom on how to deal with that problem or challenge in your marriage. You can ask God today for wisdom on how to navigate a difficult path or situation in your life.

5. Cultivate Heavenly Wisdom

Pursue heavenly wisdom as a believer and refuse to be lured by the world’s way of thinking and doing things. Keep your thoughts and actions pure by avoiding negative influences and behaviors. Be a peacemaker by promoting peace in your interactions and relationships.

Be compassionate and forgiving towards others, even when it’s difficult. Be willing to offer help and support to those in need without expecting anything in return. Be that person who shows empathy and understanding in your relationships.

Avoid arrogance and be willing to listen and understand different perspectives. Be open to feedback and willing to learn from others.  Avoid deceit and manipulation. Build trust in your relationships by being transparent and authentic in your words and actions. Always strive to make a positive impact wherever you are through small, consistent acts of kindness. Let your actions always reflect the wisdom you carry within.

Challenge to Apply James 3:13-18 Reflective Questions

1. Which characteristics of godly wisdom (pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, fruitful, impartial, sincere) do you see in yourself?

2. Which of these characteristics do you need to develop more fully, and what steps can you take to do so?

3. Can you think of recent examples where your behavior or action demonstrated wisdom or where you fell short?

4. What motivates your actions? Are they driven by selfish ambition or a desire to serve others?

5. How often do you pray for wisdom and guidance in your daily decisions and interactions?

Living Wisely


Dear Lord, I ask for your wisdom again today. Fill my heart with your wisdom and teach me how to live wisely. Precious spirit of God, help me to always assess my actions and motives. Purge me of every earthly and worldly wisdom and guide me in the path of true wisdom. May your wisdom fill my heart to overflowing and guide my every decision and choices. Amen!

You can read also:

How to Tame your Tongue

6 Practical Steps to Live out Your Faith

3 Biblical Characters Who Persevered Through Trials.


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