"How Wise Are You?"
James tells us that wisdom from above looks different than earthly wisdom. What type of wisdom do you seek to have?
How Wise Are You?
A. I sometimes tease kids in the tenth grade by asking them what it means to be a sophomore? I personally did not know the answer until I was taking second year Greek in college and my teacher told us that sophomore comes from the two Greek words “sophos” which means wise and “moros” which means fool or dull, therefore that second year person is a “Fool who thinks he is wise.” Somehow, a few of us never left that sophomoric state.
B. When the Bible talks about wisdom it is not someone who possesses intellectual capacity or abstract knowledge, but someone who has moral insight on practical matters for daily life.
C. READ James 3:13. James has been teaching about faith and works, about the tongue and it power, and now he is saying that just as faith without works is dead, so is wisdom without good character and deeds.
D. The problem is there are Christians who claim to have great spiritual wisdom but their lives show only the opposite. James says there are two types of wisdom, but only one that counts. False wisdom does not come from above, and it can be seen as earthly by the outcome. True wisdom comes from above and it too can be seen by the outcome. The question we ask today is, “How wise are you?”
I. False Wisdom
A. We want to wise as children of God. But we want to make sure that our wisdom is blinded by heavenly wisdom. So often, what we think is wisdom is really self-centered means of climbing the ladder of success. Let’s do some checking on wisdom to see what type of wisdom we possess.
B. Do a motive check. Ask yourself, “What is my motive for this action or thought?” If the reason you desire to act in a particular manner is because of a wrong motive, it’s the wrong wisdom.
C. READ James 3:14-16. James talks about this false wisdom as being “earthly, unspiritual and demonic.” Now that is hard. This idea of earthly and unspiritual is talking about a person who does not think about their actions, but simply reacts. It is animalistic in its nature. It is completely inward focused. Therefore, James calls it demon-like. The outcome of earthly, unspiritual wisdom is disorder and evil practices.
D. Before we simply dismiss this as thinking that none of us ever deal with this type of wisdom let me take you back to some things that appeared wise, but the motive and the outcome showed that it really was earthly and unspiritual.
1. Abraham and Hagar. God said that Abraham was to have a child; it seemed wise to both Sarah and Abraham for him to take Hagar as his wife and have a child through her. But the birth of Ishmael brought only disorder and evil.
2. Consider the disciples who thought it wise to send the multitude of 5000 away to get their own food. But Jesus confounded their wisdom by feeding all them with five loaves and two fish. Was the wisdom of the disciples from above?
E. My point is that these people thought what they were doing was wise, but we know the end result. I believe we need to be very careful about what we think is wisdom from above. Heavenly wisdom points us in a direction that may not be what we desire.
F. I am reminded of a story of a man from Boston who was entertaining a famous Chinese scholar. He met his Oriental friend at the train station and rushed him to the subway. As they ran through the subway station, the host panted to his guest, “If we run and catch this next train, we will save three minutes!” To which the patient Chinese philosopher replied, “And what significant thing shall we do with the three minutes we are saving?” Wisdom of this world is far more interested in saving three minutes than knowing what to do with the three minutes they saved.
II. True Wisdom
A. So what is this wisdom that we as Christians should possess? James helps to define that for us in verse 17.
B. True wisdom is characterized by being morally pure, peace-loving, considerate, gentle, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Some would consider these traits as naive. Wisdom from God often looks different than what we are used to.
C. One word in this list that caught my attention was the word the NIV translates as “submissive.” The ESV uses “open to reason.” The idea is that of compliance. It is a willingness to yield to persuasion when truth is presented. Sometimes I have to admit that my own best thinking got me into a great deal of trouble. Maybe, taking the time to listen to people who are more spiritual and possess this wisdom from above, will help me to gain a similar type of wisdom.
D. True wisdom has feet and hands and is seen as well as heard. True wisdom is not having our heads in the clouds, but being down in the valley with our hands in the muck of life, lifting people up towards the mountains. What I see in this passage is community and relationship. So I ask myself, “How wise am I?” These are the attributes that help me see wisdom from above versus wisdom from this world.
A. James concludes with these words (Verse 18). Again, what we see is the effect of what wisdom from above brings. “A harvest of righteousness.” Doesn’t that just sound like what you want your life bring? I know it does me.
B. Peace is what brings this harvest of righteousness. Peace that starts with. The best peace we can have is peace with God. That peace comes when in our union through Christ we live in the grace of God. When live out in wisdom a life that is God-centered and not self-centered I sow I peace. May peace be with you, and we can help you live in peace, then come as we stand and sing.