17 In contrast to the denial of v.15, James turns to a description of "the wisdom that comes from heaven." Its basic characteristic is "pure". The reference is not to sexual purity but to the absence of any sinful attitude or motive. It is the opposite of the self-seeking attitude of vv.14-16. From this inner quality flow the outward manifestations given in the rest of the verse.
James goes on to describe this wisdom as "peace-loving", in contrast to the bitter spirit of competitiveness and selfish ambition described in v.14. Next, it is "considerate". In the LXX this word is used mostly of God's disposition as King. He is gentle and kind, although in reality he has every reason to be stern and punitive toward people in their sin. God's people also are to be marked by this godlike quality, not insisting on their legal rights but exercising love's leniency instead.
Likewise, godly wisdom is "submissive". This quality is the opposite of obstinacy and self-seeking; it is a readiness to yield. Furthermore, it is "full of mercy and good fruit." That is, it is compassionate and always ready to help those who are in need. It is "impartial", showing no favoritism, and discriminating against no one. Finally, this wisdom is "sincere" (lit., "without hypocrisy"). Far from being theoretical and speculative, James's concept of wisdom is thoroughly practical. It is the understanding and attitude that result in true piety and godliness.