Synopsis: Yearning for the Good Wisdom from Above
James gives us a wonderful description of heavenly wisdom in 3:17. But he gives us very little help in knowing how to acquire it. Exploring that practical question would be a good task for a Sabbath School class this week.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Tainted heart, heavenly wisdom? If our hearts are tainted with evil, how is it possible to acquire that good “wisdom from above” as James calls it, a wisdom that is “pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits”?
2. Wisdom for teachers? Is the section on wisdom (3:13-18) to be linked with the qualifications for teaching, a link suggested in 3:1?
3. Description and prescription. How does one “fix” or “cure” the presence of “bitter envy” and “selfish ambition” (3:14)? Does the repetition of proverbial wisdom help?
4. Striving for the ideal. Is the model of “wisdom from above” too idealistic? Is it helpful to dwell on the ideal, even if we know we will fall short of the mark?
Note: Arthur Patrick, the late Australian historian of Adventism, shared a quote with me on “idealism” that I have found helpful. It is from Carl Shurz (1829-1906), German- American politician, journalist, reformer:
Ideals are like stars. You will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But, like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you can choose them as your guides. And following them, you reach your destiny.
5. The inner war. Is the battle described in James 4:1-3 the same battle as described in Romans 7? If so, James does not put point us to the “cure” that comes in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NRSV). Can one get help from the Old Testament in taming the inner war? After all, the Jesus solution was not an option in Old Testament times.
6. Not asking, not asking right. James tells us that we do not get what we need because we don’t ask, and when we do ask we ask wrongly (4:2-3). How does one break that cycle?