James 3:17-18: Wisdom which harvests righteousness

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. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:17-18, NIV

How do you respond to unfair treatment? Do you use it as an excuse for un-Christlike behavior such as violating rules, or maybe even laws? If so, consider the circumstances of the Jewish Christians receiving James' letter. In Judea from 50 to 62 A.D., the aristocracy treated the common people unfairly. James acknowledged this in his letter (James 2:6-7; 5:4-6). The Zealots were the every growing in crowd among Jews at this time in Judea. Their hero was Judas Maccabeus, who successfully led a revolt to make Judah independent during the transition from the Greek to the Roman Empire. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the temple after this revolt. When James wrote his letter, the Zealots were growing in political dominance and would lead the Jews in a revolt against Rome in 66 A.D.

Today people often think of the person who turns the other cheek as a wimp or loser. God controls circumstances. If you don't believe this, then consider what happened from the human standpoint to the tough Zealots versus the Christians who followed James' instructions. The Zealots took control of Jerusalem in A.D. 66. The Christians left Jerusalem when the Romans approached for the siege. Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70, and the Romans destroyed the temple except for the one wall that stands today. The Zealots took their last stand in Masada until it fell in A.D. 73. The last act of the Zealots in Masada was to commit suicide in protest to Roman subjection.

Only the least oppressed have the luxury to retaliate successfully. The most oppressed only help their oppressors justify oppression when they react violently. If a philosophical idea is not applicable to everyone, but requires an elite position in society for it to work, then it's flawed. It is defining the world by our limited experience. The word idiot comes from the Greek word idiotes. The root of this Greek word is the word idios meaning one's own. Idiot comes from the idea of a person in his/her own little world oblivious to the world outside his/her own. Not only can we have a philosophy that isolates our world from other people, but one that isolates us from God and His resources available to us.

Consider Joseph. His circumstances were unquestionably unfair. He didn't complain or retaliate to improve his circumstances, but quite the opposite. He had such unquestionable integrity that he stood out from those around him. Each master trusted him as a responsible individual (Genesis 39:4-6, 22-23; 41:39-40). God's providence brought him from a slave and a prisoner to second in command in Egypt (Genesis 41:39-40). However, God blessed Joseph's living by His standards and depending on Him for strength.

The simple words of Proverbs 3 summarizes this wisdom from above:

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil....

Proverbs 3:1-7, NIV
©2000 Perry Vernon Webb. You may quote this page in part or the whole as long as you do not alter the wording and reference this Internet page as the source of the quote.

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