We have at our disposal more information that at any time in human history. More information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the preceding 5000 years. Today, information doubles every four years, but somehow our world seems to be lacking in wisdom. Now, to be fair, there are many kinds of wisdom. For example, children can be a source of wisdom. I read these wise quotes from children recently.
- Patrick, age 10, says: “Never trust a dog to watch your food for you.”
- Lauren, age 9, says: “No matter how pretty the look, felt markers are not good lipstick.”
- Eileen, age 8, says: “Never try to baptize a cat.”
True faith transforms your life. If you don’t have a changed life, if your actions don’t match your belief, then your faith is dead. It’s not just deficient, it is dead. And true faith, will be manifest by godly wisdom. True faith is demonstrated by godly wisdom.
James begins to deal with wisdom in James 3:13. He poses a question. “Who is wise and understanding among you? No one wants to be thought of as foolish. No one wants to be perceived as unwise. We all desire to be known as a wise person. But James asks a question. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Now listen, James does not equate wisdom with intelligence, titles, or degrees. We are quick to call people with vast education “wise” but knowing information is not the same as being wise. For example, did you know that Weird Al Yankovic was valedictorian of his high school, and has an advanced degree in Architecture? How many of you would call Weird Al “Wise Al?”
Wisdom is not measured by information; it is measured according to James, by your actions. Verse 13 continues, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James is saying that the true test for someone’s level of wisdom is found by testing their actions, not testing their knowledge. The way you act demonstrates whether or not you are wise.
James 3:14 says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” If your conduct and your character are defined by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, you are not a wise person.
James wants a New Testament church to be characterized by such people. That is a great aim of Christianity. All our church activities are to be to that end, to produce and multiply the wise and understanding. In this section of his epistle James is going to tell his readers what this means and how it may be attained. First he is going to set the standard, and then he is going to warn us of those particular sins which mean the destruction of such wisdom. Finally, he is going to list the marks of a wise life, and the promised harvest.
The sources of wisdom
Wisdom from below
There is a wisdom that comes from the world. There is a wisdom that comes from below. James says, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, you have wisdom that comes from below. It is a worldly wisdom. James is talking about a person who simply resents and dislikes the blessings that others receive. Are you so full of the Holy Spirit that the sins of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition have been ejected from your life? If not, you have a wisdom that comes from below. It is a worldly wisdom.
James 3:15 says, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Notice please, James is not describing murder, burglary, or any other of a long list of high crimes and treasons. He is simply saying, if you are bitter towards others and put your own needs before the needs of another, you have a worldly wisdom that is carnal, unspiritual, and demonic!
Emmanuel Baptist Church is to be a congregation that is not jealous of another’s possessions, rank, status, beauty, job, intelligence, style, family, office or health! False wisdom fails to understand that all people matter because all people matter to God! Rich or poor, black or white, successful or not, famous or anonymous, intelligent or normal, gifted or not, all people matter to God and when you fail to understand this you fall into a worldly wisdom and not the wisdom of God. James continues in verse 14, “if you boast and are false to the truth, you have wisdom from below.”
The measuring stick of the world is not the same as the measuring stick of God. These are the things that the world measures. It all depends upon your outlook. The way you look at other people determines the quality of your wisdom. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition unnaturally “LOOK UP” to people. It is an unhealthy outlook. Boasting “LOOKS DOWN” on people.
These are the things that the world tells you to chase after. But not so with the people of God. When you find yourself looking up to the achievements of another, “LOOK OUT!” When you find yourself looking down on the shortcomings of another, “LOOK OUT!” The value of the Christian is found in the cross, and the ground beneath the cross is level for all!
What are the effects of unnaturally looking up or looking down on people? James 3:15 says that a poor outlook towards other people produces “disorder and every evil practice.” This sort of wisdom only produces trouble. James says in verse 16, “For where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every foul deed.”
Wisdom from above
But James says there is another kind of wisdom. This wisdom does not come from below, but from above. There is a better way to look at the world. There is a better way to look at others. Again, the context of our text says, “by your conduct you will demonstrate the quality of the character of your wisdom.”
There is a wisdom that comes from above. There is a wisdom that comes from God. James is often called the New Testament Book of Wisdom, just as Proverbs is the Old Testament Book of Wisdom. In Proverbs, Solomon tells us a great deal about the Wisdom that Comes from Above. Solomon tells us that wisdom comes from above.
- Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
- Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
There is a wisdom that comes from above. It source is heaven.
The characteristics of wisdom
It is Pure (v. 17)
It is peaceable (v. 17)
It is gentle (v. 17)
It is teachable (v. 17)
It is Merciful (v. 17)
The results of wisdom
James 3:18 says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” A harvest of righteousness… I pray that this this is what EBC is
- Praying for
- Longing for
- Striving for
- Working for
Not just mere religion, God help us. Not just merely going through the motions. Not just merely living life till we breathe our last. No, a harvest of righteousness. A great choice is laid before you today. And today you must choose. Yes, each day you much choose.
Will you live your life for what comes below: bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, or will you live for what comes from above. One is useless, false, carnal, unspiritual and demonic, the other flows from the throne of God. What is righteousness? Righteousness is God’s goodness. Righteousness is living according to God’s standard. It is submitting your life to God’s will, God’s Word, and God’s way. It is not pursuing the passions of this world, but submitting your life to God’s standard.
If you sow to your flesh, you will reap corruption. If you sow what is worldly, you will reap what is carnal, and that which is carnal is corrupt. How do you sow to your flesh? Just do what comes naturally. “If it feels good, do it.” That is the philosophy of the world. That is carnal philosophy. “If it feels good, do it.” That is sowing to the flesh. And it will only reap corruption. Defilement. Rotten putrification!
On a particularly hot day, I went to my garbage container to dispose of some trash. I lifted the lid to be welcomed with the most vile, hideous odor conceivable to man. It sped through my nostrils, overwhelmed my lungs, and caused my stomach to wretch.
Rotten meat. Rotten maggot infested meat. Rotten putrefying, spoiled, worm-covered meat. I wretched. I vomited. Still with bag in hand, I lifted the lid again, only to wretch again. And again. Finally, I gathered the strength to throw the bag in and run, but for the rest of the day, I could not get the smell out of my nose. In fact, for the next few days, the very sight of the canister made my stomach involuntarily wretch.
That is what the things of this world should do to the Christian. The vile odor of their putrid smell should repulse us. The pleasures of this world are rotting. The pursuits of this world are decaying. They are vile smelling, putrid, rotten, and produce a harvest that will not last.
But there is a greater harvest. It is not natural, it is supernatural. It is not worldly, it is heavenly. It is not putrid, it is pure. It is not bellicose, it is peaceable. A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. If one professes to be a Christian, he must prove it by living like a Christian. And nothing is more convincing than the kind of wisdom revealed in his or her behavior. God’s wisdom will be revealed in the way we live. And when we hear Him and we love Him and we obey Him and we serve Him, it will be manifest by a purified heart in humble peacemaking deeds of righteousness that reproduce themselves. It’s a tremendous, tremendous picture. And James says that’s how a person proves whether or not he has the wisdom of God.
You ask yourself: do I? Do I have the wisdom of God? The answer is not anything other than what is the character of your life, what are the specific deeds you do and what is your attitude. And you run the inventory yourself. Is your life worldly wisdom? Or is your life divine wisdom?
You say, “I don’t know. Maybe I’m in the middle.” Well, you better get on your knees and find out which side of the line you’re on. It may be that you’re in the worldly wisdom area but you’ve been around Christians so long you’ve picked up some of their habits. It may be that you are in the godly wisdom area but you’ve been hanging around the world so long you’ve picked up some of their habits. And if you’re having trouble figuring out where you are, you’re in desperate situation. God’s wisdom should mark without equivocation those people who belong to Jesus Christ.
And let me just summarize in closing thought…wisdom equals life style. The entry into wisdom is through faith in God through Jesus Christ. We are saved into wisdom. Once we come into wisdom, then Scripture becomes the source of wisdom, the Holy Spirit becomes the teacher of wisdom. What a wonderful thought. What a wonderful truth.