“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

When I first began reading and reflecting on the book of James, I was in my early twenties. I was eager to learn and do. I was quick to read a list of commands and rush out to try and implement them in my daily life. I tried to force myself to become pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. I was met with limited success in this endeavor! After much striving, I walked away from James discouraged. My faith often lacked the works that proved its validity. I had a tongue that I could never seem to bridle and a heart that struggled, and often failed to be merciful and gentle. For many years, I avoided James altogether.

Jesus Through the Eyes of James

Over a decade later, I was exhausted and burnt out from all my striving. In what felt like a last-ditch effort to recover my flailing faith, I set aside a year to study the Gospel of John. I spent this year walking with Jesus and saw him through the eyes of the beloved disciple. I saw his compassionate, merciful heart. Jesus was quick to be moved by pity when he encountered those whose lives had been ravaged by the wages of sin. His gentleness astounded me. His willingness to sit and reason with people who knew far less than he did melted my skeptical heart. He accepted those the world rejected. He valued those the world discarded. He embraced the poor, the needy, and the outcast. His impartiality cut me to the quick in a way that made me want to be around him all the time. He was merciful and full of good fruit.

I remember the first time I read the book of James after studying the life of Jesus. I read it with tears in my eyes, because this was the perspective of a man who had grown up in the same house as Jesus. What would it have been like to live with someone so merciful? It is as if every word of James is a character sketch of Christ himself. James remembered Jesus as a man whose life perfectly displayed what he believed. He was a man who never let his tongue get away from him—who only spoke from the wellspring of his beautiful and pure heart. He was gentle and merciful and full of good works. This was no longer a book that left me discouraged and dismayed. It became a book that called me to fix my eyes on my older brother, Jesus.

Jesus is Wisdom for Us

If we forget that James was writing with Jesus in the forefront of his mind, his words become crushing. But when we remember that the Wisdom of God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, that changes everything. We are not being called to muster up this wisdom from somewhere deep within ourselves. We are not commanded to produce this fruit from our own resources. We cannot manufacture Christ-like compassion on our own. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We are called to meditate on the love of Christ that compelled him to give himself up for us (Gal. 2:20, Eph. 5:2). We are called to remember his compassion and mercy towards us (Eph. 2:4, Titus 3:5, 1 Pet. 2:10). Only then, with Jesus in the forefront of our minds, will true wisdom, compassion, and good fruit emerge in our lives.

In her chapter, “Full of Mercy and Good Fruit,” Maria begins by talking about the longing and desire to be made into the image of Jesus. Every believer has this longing deep within them. The Spirit of God, who dwells within us, intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. He is interceding for us according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27). What is the will of God for us? Paul tells us just a few sentences later: “to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29).

This is the soil in which the Spirit works! It is not striving in our own efforts that produces mercy and good fruit in our lives; it is a heart that is captivated by the love of Christ and longs to be more like him. It is a heart that embraces the wisdom that comes from above, because we know that Jesus came to us, full of mercy and compassion, bearing good fruit, in order that he might bring us to God. It is a heart like James, who longs to be like our older Brother, that Jesus might be the firstborn among many siblings that look like him: full of mercy and good fruit.

Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

Abby Hutto

Abby Hutto is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Story Presbyterian Church in Westerville, Ohio. She also works for Parakaleo, a ministry that comes alongside women in ministry, as a group leader and trainer. Abby loves to study and teach God’s Word and delights in helping others experience and know their Heavenly Father better. Abby is married to Ken, and they have two children, Hannah (14) and Harry (13). They live in Westerville, Ohio. She is the author of God For Us: Discovering the Heart of the Father through the Life of the Son, (P&R Publishing). You can connect with Abby at