James 3:17 (II)

            The next group on James’ list includes mercy, and good fruit.  Again, this characteristic clearly coincides with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  In this we learn that the believer whose life has been transformed by the mercy of God will be convinced of the wisdom of mercy and in turn will show mercy towards others.  James has already given us a definition of what mercy is.  In 2:8-13 we see that the one who does not love, shows partiality, and speaks and acts like one who will not be judged is not merciful.  From that we can see that it is the one who loves others, does not show partiality, and speaks and acts with God’s perfect judgment in mind who is merciful.  With the term full of, James joins mercy and good fruit. It is not surprising to see the topic of good fruit surface again in this letter.  In 2:14ff we talked a lot of about the fruit revealing the root.  If bad fruit appears then there is a bad root.  If good fruit appears then there is a good root.  We should not be surprised that James would include this.  This is the very criteria that Jesus gave for finding wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15-20).  Since wisdom is skill for living righteously good fruit is a must.

            The final two characteristics on James’ list (which we could call the fruit of wisdom) are unwavering, and without hypocrisy.  This word for unwavering is negative form of the word translated “double-minded” in 1:6.  This means that in order for one to be wise he must not waver in his faith in God.  Let’s us the example provided for us in 1:4.  The wise man understands that God is working in the midst of his trials for good.  He knows that his first reaction, to worry, is the worst possible reaction that he could have.  So, he trusts in God.  If he does not have the wisdom to see how God is at work in his life, then he will pray to God for that wisdom before he begins to loose his faith.  The wavering man is the total opposite.  He does not have the faith to believe that God is at work in the midst of his trials.  He worries rather than trust in God.  And even though he prays to God for the wisdom to see how God is at work in the midst of his trial, he really does not even believe that God is at work at all.  To be wavering would be to have a divided loyalty towards God.  The next characteristic is very similar to this one.  To be without hypocrisy is to be genuine.  This word for hypocrisy when traced back to its origins has the literal sense of “playing the part.”  Jesus hated this sin of hypocrisy. In fact, four times in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus condemned hypocrisy (6:2, 5, 16; 7:5).  Consistently Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Luke 12:1; Matt 22:18; Matt 24:50-51).  Think about the utter nonsense of being a religious hypocrite.  You spend your whole life coming to church; you invest time, money, and resources; you outwardly try to make yourself look like a Christian; but ultimately you were just a fake.  You will get none of the rewards of a being a Christian but you spent your whole life working hard to fake everyone out.  What sense does that make!