There are two types of wisdom: a heavenly wisdom and an earthly/demonic wisdom. The characteristics of both are described. James' readers are exhorted to act out of the former and are warned of the latter. James thus provides a standard against which believers can test their own hearts and words and actions. There seems to be a call to action - you who are wise (in the wisdom from God, James 1:5, James 1:17), act, do good works, in the humility that accompanies your meek acceptance of the word implanted in you (James 1:21). A crop of righteousness (righteous lives and redeemed souls) is prepared when we act in a way that is consistent with God's wisdom.
Who is wise and understanding among you?
You who are wise and understands what is good,
m By his good conduct
therefore, by his good actions
let him show his works
let him show it in his good works
n in the meekness of wisdom.
with the gentleness that accompanies wisdom.
But if you have bitter o jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
But if you have anger and selfish desires in your hearts
do not boast
then do not cover over it with boasting
and be false to the truth.
and so live against the truth.
This is not p the wisdom that comes down from above,
Because this (selfish ambition and anger) is not wisdom from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, q demonic.
but is of man, not from God, of demons.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
That is, where anger and selfish desires exist
there will be disorder and every vile practice.
the result will be things out of order and all sorts of stinking behaviour.
But r the wisdom from above is first pure,
But the wisdom from God is first without any inconsistency
then s peaceable, gentle, open to reason,
and it is inclined to peace, gentle, open to reasoned discussion,
t full of mercy and good fruits,
and it is full or mercy and pleasing behaviour
u impartial and v sincere.
and it takes no favors and is sincere.
And w a harvest of righteousness x is sown in peace
An abundance of righteousness is prepared in peace
by those who make peace.
If a person pursues peace
It is pure because it is from God.
The wisdom from above is ... first of all ... pure, without any fault, 100% (not 99.99%) pure. Does first of all mean above all?
We may say that certain attitudes aren't very nice, so you need to do better ... certain attitudes are demonic.
We are given two scenarios ... are these the only options available? That is, we submit to and meekly receive God's truth, and act on the basis of that truth, or we ... have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts ... are these the only two options?
What do the terms 'wise' and 'understanding' mean in this context? James has said that if we lack wisdom we should ask (James 1:5). And on asking and receiving, we here are called to act, to 'show his works'.
I thought the prepositional phrase 'in the meekness of wisdom' was worth breaking off, but was not sure how to relate it. I understood it as follows: James has previously instructed the reader to receive with meekness the implanted word (James 1:21). I take this to be the opposite of resisting God's word, and instead humbly, willingly, accepting it and living according to it. Now in James 3:13, James says, to the one who has some grasp of wisdom, to show his understanding through his works. These works should be characterised by good conduct, and a demeanour that is under God's authority.
Do not act or speak out in a way that says 'actually, I know better than God's wisdom.'