Taking Out the Garbage
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
The most important description James gives of heavenly wisdom is that it is first pure. He isn’t using “first” in the sense that purity is the first item in a list but that purity is first in importance. That means if you want wisdom, you must be pure.
This is the opposite of the world’s wisdom. James tells us in the preceding verses of chapter three that worldly wisdom is corrupt, sensual, criminal, demonic, and self-serving. It fits our culture hand in glove.
The word James uses for pure describes someone who shrinks from the pollution of sin. It’s not that true wisdom is simply clean—it despises uncleanness. It does to sin what we do to the garbage: get rid of it!
When my older daughter Candace was still in college, I went to pick her up for Christmas break. My younger daughter Charity was with me, and together we loaded Candace’s things into the back of my Chevy pickup truck.
I had a garbage bag in the back that I had forgotten about. After the bed of the pickup was crammed full, I plopped the rather large bag of trash on top and away we went.
About an hour down the road, however, the wind began to pick up and the bag of trash shifted, slid, and finally toppled out onto the highway. I watched through my side-view mirror as that bag exploded onto the pavement and sent garbage everywhere!
After turning off at the nearest exit and stopping to get some trash bags, we made our way back to the scene of the debris. Trash was strewn on that highway for 40 feet, and we found everything from egg shells and empty cartons to food scraps. My daughters and I all picked up the garbage the same way: with our fingertips. It was a nasty job, and we didn’t want to get our hands dirty.
Trash isn’t something we hang up in our living room or collect as a hobby—at least, most people don’t. Garbage is something we don’t want around. That’s why our 32-gallon cans are outside and not in the middle of the living room.
This is the picture James is painting for us: sin doesn’t belong inside. The wiser we become in our Christian walk, the less we will coddle, embrace, and accommodate impurity.
A woman told me that she had been involved with a man for some time before finally breaking it off. She was single and he was married. They both claimed to be Christians and both were involved in a local church.
She said to me, “We had both wandered so far from biblical wisdom and were so self-deceived that we would actually meet at a hotel room, get out our Bibles, read and pray together before committing adultery.”
This is why James tells us that purity is first and foremost a part of godly wisdom. If we get purity wrong, we’re going to get everything else wrong.
As you ask God for wisdom today, start by confessing any impurity in your heart. Ask God to give you strength . . . strength to throw the garbage out.
Are you being deceived by sin like the woman in our devotion today? Have you chosen a path that you are convinced is right, while at the same time knowing it is impure? I encourage you to choose one of the verses listed in Extra Refreshment and memorize at least one passage, praying specifically that God will apply His wisdom to your life as you battle your way back to the path of godly wisdom.
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