Sermon: True Wisdom (James 3:13-18)

True Wisdom

James 3:13-18

 

James 3:13-18 (ESV) 

    Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  [18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Last week we saw the importance of controlling our tongues.  We saw the power it has to control our whole being.  We saw the danger of our tongues.  Then we saw the inconsistency of our tongues, we praise God and also curse men.

James continues with his theme of controlling our speech. 

1- True Wisdom Produces Meekness (vs. 13)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 

James, the theologian of practicality challenges us to not simply claim to have godly wisdom but to show it by our actions.  He does this in much the same way that he challenges those who would claim to possess saving faith to show that it’s genuine by their actions as well. 

James gives us a command.  He says that it’s not enough to do the right things, but to have the right attitude while we do them.  Practicing good conduct with meekness is a product of godly wisdom. 

He has already told us where this wisdom comes from. 

James 1:5 (ESV) 

    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 

The obvious truth is that we all lack this wisdom.  Only God can give it because He is the only One that possesses it.  If we are to acquire this wisdom we must seek to get it from God. 

Jesus Christ has these very traits. So, Christ is our model for what godly wisdom looks like. If we want to understand what meekness is we look to our Lord.

Matthew 11:29 (ESV) 

    Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

So, the world and its qualities tell us to go for the gusto, to get what you want regardless the cost to others, you are number one.  Christ comes along and turns it upside down and shows us that this worldly advice is nothing but a lie. 

Jesus tells us to learn from Him.  What Christ says are great attributes are a gentle spirit and a meek heart, are qualities of true wisdom. 

James offers us a look at two types of wisdom.  He shows us first,

2- Wisdom from Below (vss. 14-16)

[14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  

We see in these verses worldly wisdom at work or even the fruit of worldly wisdom.  Natural wisdom is completely accomplished without God.  This is the goal and focus of the world order.  Here James is showing us the works or fruit of false wisdom or wisdom from below.

Jealousy and selfish ambition are very powerful driving forces in the heart.  Worldly wisdom will make great boasts and even lie to promote one’s agenda.  The focus of worldly wisdom is the promotion of self at the expense of everything else.   

James tells us that this wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Earthly- It has no thought of the world to come but is focused on the here and now.

Unspiritual- Has no idea of the spiritual side.  Is not guided by the Holy Spirit.

Demonic-  resembling or proceeding from demonic forces. 

Where we see clear evidence of unredeemed human nature at work, and devilish influences in control, disorder and vile practice are the result.

In Tolken’s classics Lord of the Rings, there are characters called Orks.  They are to represent the demonic side.  They are vile and devilish.  They are selfish and very jealous.  Often in the story these creatures are found fighting each other because of their selfish ambition and jealousy.  They are truly a picture of the demonic force of evil.

James declares that the fruit of jealousy and selfish ambition is disorder and every vile practice. 

Those who are living according to the flesh produce this type of fruit.

Paul calls these the works of the flesh.  These works do not lead to peace and unity but to strife and discord.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) 

    Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Paul gives us another look at this type of wisdom in his letter to the Corinthian Church.

1 Cor. 2:6-13 (ESV) 

    Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  [7] But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  [8] None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  [9] But, as it is written,

    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

        nor the heart of man imagined,

    what God has prepared for those who love him”—

 [10] these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  [11] For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  [12] Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  [13] And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The only way we can change from worldly wisdom to godly wisdom is to have the Holy Spirit residing within.  He will guide us away from the fleshly wisdom that we have been so used to and lead us into the wisdom of Christ.

3- Wisdom from Above (vss. 17-18)

 [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  [18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Here we see the complete opposite.  Here is the work of the new nature, the nature that Christ has given to His people.  This is the works and fruit of True Wisdom.  This wisdom cannot be obtained from human accomplishments.  This is foreign to everything natural.  It is wisdom from above. 

James declares this type to be free from selfish agendas he calls it pure.

It’s peaceable- it unites and reconciles.  It doesn’t divide and alienate.

Gentle- Doesn’t demand the strictness of the law.

open to reason,- Eager to obey and to listen to the other side of the story.

full of mercy and good fruits- this wisdom from Christ is compassionate to those in need.  It’s a picture of an apple tree so full of fruit that its branches are touching the ground. 

impartial and sincere- Totally unbiased and genuine.

Again Paul gives us a very similar list in Galatians.

Just as James contrasts the fruit of two types of wisdom Paul contrasts the fruit of two types of natures.

Galatians 5:22-26 (ESV) 

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

    [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

James and Paul are on the same page when making comparisons.

A life that Christ has changed will produce fruit of the spirit.  A life left to itself will produce fruit of the flesh.

[18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

What kind of wisdom do you have?

Is it a worldly wisdom that is promoting your self interests and that harvests disunity?

Or is it a godly wisdom that is given to us by Christ and that produces gentleness, peace and unity. I pray that is the wisdom you posses, wisdom from above.

 

 

 

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