’17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace.’
True wisdom is the result of a tamed tongue. In verse 17, the evidences of true heavenly wisdom are given: But the wisdom that is from above. But makes a contrast. It is followed by the list of seven characteristics of true wisdom.
He begins by stating: is first pure. By ranking it first, pure becomes primary and fundamental. As an inner quality of wisdom, pure is the most important. All the other descriptive terms are external to a man’s heart. To be pure signifies it is undefiled and clean. As a word used of Jesus in I John 3:3, it is free from all of the characteristics of false wisdom. Then, a list of external characteristics follows. Note how then ensues logically, reasonably from the internal purity.
The second characteristic is: peaceable, which promotes peace and tries to heal divisions but not at the expense of purity.
The third characteristic is: gentle. The Greek denotes “gentle;” “considerate;” “forbearing;” “courteous;” “reasonable;” “kindly.” It is a disposition that does not insist upon its own rights; it pertains to that which regards the feelings of others, carrying the concept of equity and fairness.
The fourth characteristic is: easy to be entreated or approached. This is a Greek word placed only in this verse and nowhere else. Outside the New Testament, it was used of someone who submitted to military discipline. In this situation, it conveys openness to reason; willingness to yield; to be easily persuaded. Conversely, it opposes being stubborn and unyielding.
The fifth characteristic is: full of mercy, yielding compassion, pity, kind actions, and helpful deeds. As a result, good fruits are produced on behalf of the needy. This reference is to kind actions and helpful deeds. Good modifies fruits meaning beneficial. The word fruits is plural because it results in a variety of good works.
The sixth characteristic is: without variance, without partiality and prejudice. This Greek word appears only here in verse 17 and nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes “to be undivided,” without division or discord, and it reinforces consistency in contrast to the uncontrolled tongue, which was described in earlier verses as inconsistent.
The seventh characteristic is: without hypocrisy; sincere, genuine, and free from all pretense.
Because of these seven characteristics of true wisdom, in verse 18 Jacob/James declares the results of true wisdom: And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace. The phrase fruit of righteousness allows for two possible interpretations. It might be appositional, meaning fruit that consists of righteousness. Or, it might be subjective, meaning fruit that righteousness produces. It is sown in peace; producing peace. It is for them that make peace, or the peacemakers. The fruit of righteousness is sown by peacemakers who enjoy the results of their work. Righteousness cannot be produced when conditions are full of strife, jealousy, and selfishness, which are the products of false wisdom. However, verses 17-18 contain the consequences of wisdom from above that are the counterpart to the results of bad wisdom of verse 16.
Excerpt From: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. “The Messianic Jewish Epistles.”