Sermon: Sunday, 19/09/2021
Also available as a video – Sermon20210919
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8
James 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.”
Heavenly wisdom vs Earthly wisdom
I loved what someone said about wisdom. “Have you ever thought about what makes a person wise? Oftentimes we have ideas of what makes us wise. Perhaps it is someone who wears glasses or with grey hair, or maybe someone with a lot of degrees on their wall or someone who likes to read a lot. Now the question is, “How many of you want to be wise?” What is wisdom? Wisdom is the integration of our thoughts, our wills, our actions, and the context within which we exist. Therefore, to be wise means that our beliefs inform and control what we do. King Solomon defines wisdom in this way. 1 Kings 3:9 “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”
According to James there are two sources of wisdom. One source is the world we live in. Here we find wisdom such as maximizing your happiness. It teaches us to be jealous of what others have, and selfish. With wisdom like this our actions might be to stay out late and get drunk, or have a lot of sex outside of marriage, or get rich by taking advantage of others. You can find the world’s wisdom taught in schools, glorified on television and in the movies, and generally accepted by most people in our culture. The world’s wisdom encourages us to be self-absorbed and destructive. The ultimate source of the world’s wisdom is the devil who wants to corrupt us and ruin our lives.
Another source of wisdom is from above. With this wisdom we are encouraged to be peaceful, gentle, holy, obedient, compliant, and filled with compassion. With wisdom from above we love our neighbors; welcome everyone in worship with no partiality or favoritism, and our actions match our faith. Wisdom from above is a gift from God and should be taught in churches.
So, James gives us two types of wisdom that are opposed to each other. Two versions of wisdom, one is the real deal and and the other is an imitation of the real thing. We see that the one comes from above and the other from below.
Let us look at Heavenly wisdom, Wisdom from above (verse 13)
James shows us that wisdom is not merely intellectual knowledge. It also involves accompanying behavior. So the wisdom that comes from God will be seen in our good conduct. According to James the marks of wise people are humbleness, kindness, willingness to yield, gentleness. Wise people are not ego driven, not envious of one another. Part of this wisdom is gentleness. Some find gentleness as a problem particularly men because they feel you as a man must be rough and tough. But we must know that being strong does not mean that we can’t be gentle. You can be strong and gentle. You can be a leader and be humble. You can be a mover and shaker, while all the while not running over other people.
Do you think you are wise? Do you think you are understanding? Show it in your conduct which is led by gentleness.
Gentleness shows itself in many different ways:
Gentleness is exhibited in several different ways.
Gentleness means that we think of others first.
Gentleness means that we are patient with others.
Gentleness means that we go out of our way not to cause harm.
Gentleness means that we practice self-control with others.
Gentleness means that we are confident in the strength that God has given us and we don’t need to intimidate people to feel strong.
So, good conduct and gentleness is a sign of true wisdom, as well as someone changed by the gospel.
Therefore, let us walk in gentleness.
Let us look at earthly wisdom (verses 14-16)
James says that we should not boast or brag about having selfish ambition and envy and vain conceit. Bitter envy means that we really want something that someone else has. We desire it to the point that we are bitter. Selfish ambition means we have ambition for something that serves us and our own interests.
James says if we do these things, we should not boast about it. For if you do, you are denying the truth. This is a very denial of the life that the gospel calls us to live. James tells us that this is the source of conflicts, this worldly wisdom leads us to disordered desires like jealousy and selfish ambition.
A few years ago there was an ad on television for an automobile. It started with a father putting finishing touches on a tree house for his kids. He came down from the tree and went to look for the children. He found them in the back seat of his new car playing cards. The father told them about his new creation. But the kids asked him: “Does it have leather seats?” “A DVD player?” they had no interest in the tree house their father had just built. Even children are taught the wisdom of the world: to desire the wrong things.
When the disordered desires of two or more people come into contact conflicts will arise. Ultimately all conflicts come from desiring something someone else has. We want the newest television set and a bigger home. We want the most expensive car on the block. We want husbands that will take care of us, or wives that look like a trophy, or children in the top 10% of their class. And when we don’t get what we want we just take it from someone else and so conflicts arise. Our only hope to avoid conflicts is to rely not on the wisdom of the world but on the wisdom from above.
This wisdom does not come from above, it does not come from God.
This line of thinking is earthly, it comes from natural human origins, not supernatural, it is unspiritual. This line of thinking is from the devil himself. So not following God’s ways creates disorder and brokenness in our lives. God is not a God of confusion, He is not a God of disorder. He wants direction, order and clarity in our lives. However, when we depart from His ways and pursue our own ways, it creates a mess. That is what sin will do!
We see that envy, selfish ambition, disorder and evil practice are the opposite of gentleness, humbly and good conduct. Wisdom from above leads to good conduct. Earthly wisdom is selfish and envious.
The godly fruit that wisdom from above produces
James says wisdom comes from above from God and we need to be thankful to God that He gives us true wisdom. What a gift! James then tells us what godly wisdom looks like.
Pure – true wisdom is not tainted by evil. It’s pure.
Peace-loving – true wisdom does not look for trouble but looks for peace.
Gentle – again, it is gentle. It looks to be helpful to others, not harmful.
Compliant – true wisdom does not try to start arguments but tries to be reasonable and compliant.
Full of mercy – true wisdom leads us to be people of mercy; quick to forgive; quick to overlook an offense.
Full of good fruits – true wisdom produces godliness in us.
Unwavering – true wisdom sticks to the truth and the correct way without wavering.
Without pretense – true wisdom does not put on a false front but is genuine and real all of the time.
Most of all, it is guided, both in the beginning and throughout, by peace.
We are to be people of peace and we are to produce even more peace.
Peace should guide us in the wisdom process.
A person with true wisdom is a person who sows peace.
Wisdom is not just learning; it is not just knowledge; it is behavior and life change.
Does your wisdom possess these things? If not, it’s not, it’s not from God.
And this leads us to what does God want? And the answer to this is a God who created us in His image and wants us to live that way. So we must turn away from the worldly wisdom that leads to conflict, destruction and death. And turn to the wisdom from above. A wise person is defined not by what he/she has or what he likes, desires, but by their relationship with God.
Acts 15:12-19. The whole assembly kept silent, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets. Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God.
In this story James listens patiently. He is slow to speak. But when he does speak he speaks from a position of humility and gentleness. He reflects God’s love not just for a chosen few but for all of creation. He demonstrates the hours he has spent meditating on the word of God and developing a relationship with God so that he can make a decision with wisdom from above.
So how is one to be wise? You start by resisting the devil and the selfish desires of your heart to focus on the more important matter of God’s place in your life. Wash the sin away and come to God in purity and humbleness. Develop a relationship with God with regular prayer and worship. Receive the gift of faith by meditating on the Word of God. Nurture that faith and let it grow in your hearts so that it transforms you into what God created you to be. Then ask God for wisdom in your prayers and the gift of wisdom from above will be yours. You will become wise.
Lord Jesus Christ, we will follow you wherever you lead us. Help us to turn from our selfishness and greed. Help us to be instruments of your love, and humbly and gently receive your gift of faith. We ask for wisdom and pray this in your name, Prince of Peace. Amen