Certain sections of the Bible have timid readers scurrying for cover lest they die of boredom. A common culprit is lists: genealogies, sins to avoid, people who were there, and attributes to embrace. But each of these items hold their own blessing and insight, even if they require a little more time to discover. The Biblical authors were not pressured by word counts—so every thought behind the words is worth our consideration.

James’s definition of heavenly wisdom is one such list—nice words that are often glazed over. But what can be discovered when taken one at a time? What is heavenly wisdom, really?

  • Pure: It is untainted, unsullied by sinful attitude and motivation; this is the first evidence that it is heaven borne, since all purity is only possible from God Himself.
  • Peaceable: True purity leads to true peace; this wisdom can bring peace among quarreling parties, and even more so, brings peace to the heart in a way nothing else can. Thus this wisdom both shares peace with others and fills the possessor with peace.
  • Gentle: True wisdom does not hammer what it knows into other people; it deals with them gently, whether in agreement or in error.
  • Willing to yield: True wisdom is open to discussion, open to reason, open to conversation, to change, and to being wrong; it does not change out of people-pleasing, neither does it remain obstinate “just because.”
  • Full of mercy: True wisdom tells the possessor that he should extend to others the same mercy he has been the recipient of; after being the receiver, he is now a conduit.
  • [full of] good fruits: True wisdom is expressed in the life because it’s held genuinely and sincerely; the evidence in the life cannot be helped any more than it can be forced.
  • Without partiality: True wisdom does not “respect persons” (Deut. 16:19) because it knows that this is foolishness (as James has already established in chapter 2).
  • Without hypocrisy: This wisdom does not pretend to be something or someone it is not; there is sincerity and realness. It’s not a façade someone wears, but rather permeates the entire being of the one who has it.

These are not attributes to be used to conjure heavenly wisdom; they’re not to be scrounged up and pieced together, so that the possessor can declare, “Aha! I have heavenly wisdom!” Instead, this is a picture of what someone will look like, be like, and live like when they have wisdom from God. They are the effects, not the causes, of heavenly wisdom.