“Thus Leviticus 19:18b serves as James’ heremeneutical key to the Torah and Proverbs 3:34 serves as James’ hermeneutical key to the wisdom literature. In the case of Leviticus 19:18b James follows Jesus in understanding this verse as the summary of the whole law. In the case of Proverbs 3:34, there is no comparable  reference to this text in the Synoptic teaching of Jesus. But it is probably the verse of Proverbs which most nearly expresses the theme of reversal of status that is so prominent in Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 5:3-6; 19:30; 20:16; Mark 9:35; 10:23, 25, 31, 43-44; Luke 6:20-26; 13:30; 14:11; 16:19-31; cf. also Prov. 11:2; 15:33; 16:19; 29:23)…The result is an ethical concentration of both law and wisdom and an intensification or radicalized interpretation of them in the light of God’s coming Kingdom. The aim is ‘perfection’ (1:4), which the Christian community approaches as it lives a radically counter-culture lifestyle informed by the values of God’s eschatological rule.” – Richard Bauckham, James, page 155.

There are so many good things to say about Bauckham’s thoughts here: first, the clarity with which he ties James with the Hebrew Bible is helpful, he doesn’t leave you wondering which texts might serve as hermeneutical key’s – I’m not sure if such things actually existed in the mind of the author but its not hard to tell that other texts from the Hebrew Bible like Psalm 110 also play large roles in the minds of New Testament author’s; secondly, Bauckham notes that James holds the Law and Wisdom together focusing them on the ‘ethical’ – this is not hard to see if you just listen to what he says about the poor, or speech ethics, or wars; lastly, Bauckham makes note that the aim is perfection, 1:4 ‘…that you may be perfect and complete’, a perfection oriented toward community.

The audience of this cyclical letter is to let ‘teleios’, ie perfection be made ‘teleios’. There are many things lacking in today’s systematic theologies, the most unfortunate ‘stranger’ is the ethical category of wisdom. Wisdom that is united to Law, and focused on the perfection of community. Our systematic theologians today spend more time on adorning the rich traditions of the past (which has its place, to be sure) than they do on feeding the linguistically poor and the spiritually widowed within the body of Christ (which has a greater place). They often take things from ‘above’, but do little to translate them to those ‘below’.

Is this a healthy reality for the Church to undergo? Might this not be a reason why the Church spends most of its time defining sin and righteousness, rather than living the Christian story ‘wisely’? You see theology does connect with praxis, and sadly when the nature of theology is absent of ‘wisdom’, well praxis begins to appear very ‘double minded’.