A BIBLICAL VIEW OF WISDOM

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: JAMES 3:13-18




INTRODUCTION:


  1. There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Websterís Dictionary says that knowledge refers to the possession of facts; whereas wisdom refers to the ability "to judge soundly and deal sagaciously with facts, especially as they relate to life and conduct."
  2. Many people are knowledgeable; they may be highly educated, well-read, hold several advanced degrees Ė yet they lack wisdom.
  3. Today, I would like to speak on the subject of wisdom, from Godís point of view. According to the Bible, it is not the possession of knowledge but the proper application of it that counts.
  4. I have pointed out several times in this series the close connection between the epistle of James and the book of Proverbs (cf. Pro.3:13; 4:7; 8:11; 9:10). I think you will agree that, in Godís estimation, getting wisdom is very important.
  5. The great British poet and hymn-writer, William Cowper, wrote that:

"Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft-times no connectionÖ
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more."


  1. Before moving along into our study, let us remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is the personification of wisdom (cf. Col.2:3). Therefore, the first step toward true wisdom is receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour.

 

I. TRUE WISDOM COMES FROM GOD

    1. Earlier James said that we show our faith by our works (2:17-20). Now he says, we show our wisdom and knowledge by "a good conversation (lifestyle, behaviour)Öwith meekness of wisdom" (3:13).
    2. Warren Weirsbe said: "The phrase, Ďmeekness of wisdom,í is an interesting one. Meekness is the right use of power, and wisdom is the right use of knowledge. They go together."
    3. Meekness is not weakness. The Lord Jesus Christ was meek and lowly in heart (Matt.11:29). "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3).
    4. In contrast to true wisdom which comes from God, worldly wisdom is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (3:15). Let me point out some more contrasts:
    5. Manís wisdom is foolishness to God (I Cor.1:20), and Godís wisdom is foolishness to man (I Cor.2:14).
    6. Manís wisdom comes from reason; but Godís wisdom comes from revelation. This is the big difference between fundamental Christianity and the cults (e.g., Armstrong group in church basement).
    7. Manís worldly wisdom will come to nothing (I Cor.1:19). Godís wisdom will endure forever.
    8. James lists seven fruits of heavenly wisdom (3:17):
    1. First and foremost is purity. True wisdom is "pure," i.e. holy, free from defilement. True wisdom leads to purity and holiness. "It is impossible to exaggerate the value of a sensitive conscience" (Guy King). Milton called the conscience "the umpire of the soul," but some people need to train their umpire better Ė by the Word of God. it should be carefully noted that purity comes before peace (3:17). It is wonderful if you can have both (cf. Rom.12:18), but if you can only have one, purity cannot be compromised. "Peace at any price" is destroying many churches and Bible schools.
    2. Next James says "then peaceable" (3:17). Martin Luther told a story of two goats that met on a narrow bridge. Neither one would back up and they both knew that if they got into a fight they would wind up in the river. Finally, one of them lay down and let the other one go over him. The wise man is a peacemaker and will do all he can to maintain peace without sacrificing purity.
    3. Third is "gentle." A wise man is a gentleman, not a roughneck. The world admires foolish Hollywood stars and rappers and rowdy athletes that are always in a scrap, but this proves they know nothing of true wisdom.
    4. True wisdom is "easy to be intreated," i.e. willing to yield (like Lutherís goat on the bridge), conciliatory, agreeable, open to reason, ready to admit when we are wrong. President Lincolnís biographer, Carl Sandburg described him as a man of "velvet steel."
    5. "Full of mercy and good fruits" means compassionate, kind, not vindictive (cf. Luke 6:36). People that are faithful are fruitful.
    6. "Without partiality" means no favoritism (cf. 2:1-4).
    7. "Without hypocrisy" means sincere, not phony, no pretense.

 

II. THE WRONG KIND OF WISDOM COMES FROM THE DEVIL (3:15).

    1. Worldly-minded people are characterized by "bitter envying and strife" (3:14). They are only concerned with their own interests and selfish ambitions Ė their career, their plans, their goals, their family (some might object and say, "But isnít it good for us to be concerned with our family? Yes Ė but not if the family comes before God), their possessions, etc.
    2. The worldly man is proud of his success and jealous of any competitors. James says "glory not" (3:14), i.e. do not boast (cf. I Cor.1:29,31).
    3. Notice the steps downward: bitter envying and strife leads to boasting, which leads to lying and deceit (3:14).
    4. This wrong kind of wisdom "descendeth not from above" (3:15). It is from the world ("earthly"), the flesh ("sensual") and the devil ("devilish"), our three great enemies.
    5. We do not hear many sermons these days against worldliness because most preachers are pretty worldly or they are afraid to offend their worldly members.
    6. A little girl was watching her mother working in her flower garden one day and she said to her mother: "I know why the flowers grow, Mom. Theyíre so pretty they want to get out of the dirt." I donít know how pretty you are tonight but I know that if you are saved, God wants you to get out of the dirt.
    7. Men reject Godís wisdom and try to replace it with their own worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom has the wrong motives Ė "bitter envying and strife" (3:14). Worldly wisdom produces the wrong results Ė "confusion and every evil work" (3:16).
    8. Wrong thinking produces wrong living.

 

III. TRUE WISDOM BRINGS GODíS BLESSINGS (3:18).

    1. James 3:18 links together chapters 3 and 4. 3:17 says that true wisdom is peaceable. 4:1 starts off by mentioning "wars and fightings."
    2. James is declaring an important Bible principle Ė you reap what you sow (3:18).
    3. The wise man demonstrates "the fruit of righteousness" (3:13,17), because he sows "in peace" (3:18). The wise man obeys Godís Word and sows righteousness, not sin.
    4. There is today a phony "pseudo-Christianity" that is as fake as can be. Churches can manufacture conversions, they can stage fake miracles, they can speak in gibber-gabber and call it "tongues," they have their artificial ministers and phony worship services and they are fooling many people. But there is one thing that they cannot fake and that is fruit.
    5. They cannot create "the fruit of righteousness," only the Holy Spirit can do that (3:18).
    6. What we sow determines what we reap. If we live in Godís wisdom, we will sow righteousness and peace, and we will reap Godís blessing. If we live by manís worldly wisdom we will sow sin and reap "confusion and every evil work" (3:16).

CONCLUSION:

  1. Let me ask you a few simple questions: Do you serve the Lord without caring who gets the credit?
  2. Do you harbor jealousy and envy in your heart? Remember the Bible says "that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy" (Mark 15:10).
  3. Are you pure in thought, in speech, and in morals?


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