The Book of JAMES
James J. Barker
BIBLICAL VIEW OF WISDOM
- James refers to
both wisdom and knowledge in verse 13. Though they are closely connected, there is a difference between
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."
- Webster's 1913
Dictionary has this quote from William Cowper, the English poet
and hymnwriter: "Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, Have ofttimes no
connection. Knowledge dwells In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom, in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge, a rude, unprofitable mass,
The mere materials with which wisdom builds, Till smoothed, and squared, and
fitted to its place, Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is
proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no
- Many people are
knowledgeable. They may be highly educated, well-read, and hold several advanced
degrees, but they lack wisdom.
- For example,
consider a man that is often in the news.
Newt Gingrich certainly is very knowledgeable. Gingrich
received a BA in history from Emory University, and an MA and a PhD in modern
European history from Tulane University in 1971.
- He is an
educated man, but he is certainly not a wise man. He is very proud. He is a liar and an adulterer who has
been married three times. His third
wife (who he was cheating with while married to his second wife) persuaded him
to convert from being a Baptist to a Roman Catholic.
- He is educated,
but he is also very foolish.
- Romans 1:22
says, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became
- Tonight, 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 is important.
- Wisdom is not learning a lot of facts. I knew a man who spent many hours
reading the encyclopedia, but he was a drunkard. You can gain knowledge from reading the
encyclopedia, but you gain wisdom from reading the
- "Wine is a
mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise"
- Drunkards, no matter how well-read or educated or
knowledgeable, are "not wise." They
- We have noted the close connection between the epistle
of James and the book of Proverbs (cf. Pro. 1:1-7).
- "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the
man that getteth understanding" (Pro.
- "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get
wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding" (Pro.
- "For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the
things that may be desired are not to be compared to it"
- "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding"
- I think you will agree that, in Godís estimation,
getting wisdom is very important.
- The Lord Jesus Christ is the personification of
wisdom. Referring to Him,
Colossians 2:3 says, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom
- Therefore, the first step toward true wisdom is
receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour.
TRUE WISDOM COMES FROM
- 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).
- 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
- Meekness is not
weakness. The Lord Jesus Christ was meek and lowly in heart (Matt.
- Moses was meek,
but not weak. "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were
upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3).
- In contrast to
true wisdom which comes from God, worldly wisdom is "earthly, sensual, devilish"
Corinthians 1:20 says, "Hath not God
made foolish the wisdom of this world?"
- Manís wisdom
comes from reason; but Godís wisdom comes from revelation. This is the big
difference between fundamental Christianity and liberalism and the religious
- Isaiah 29:14
says, "For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the understanding of
their prudent men shall
- The apostle
Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14 in I Corinthians 1:19, "For it is written, I will
destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
- Manís worldly wisdom will come to nothing. Godís wisdom
will endure forever.
- James lists seven fruits of heavenly wisdom (3:17).
First and foremost is purity. True wisdom is "pure," i.e. holy, free from
- 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
- Purity comes before peace (3:17). I referred earlier to Mr. Gingrich. He is impure. He is so obscenely impure that
even many worldly people are repulsed by him.
- Purity cannot be compromised. "Peace at any price" has
destroyed many churches and Christian schools.
- 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
- Romans 12:18 says, "If it be
possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably
with all men."
- Third, the wisdom that is from above
is "gentle" (3:17). A wise man is a gentleman, not a
- Recently an arrogant movie star had to be removed from
an airplane because of his rude and disruptive behaviour. This man considers
himself a know-it-all, but it is obvious he knows nothing about true
- True wisdom is "easy to be intreated" (3:17), i.e.
willing to yield (like Lutherís goat on the bridge), conciliatory, agreeable,
open to reason, ready to admit when we are wrong.
- "Full of mercy and good fruits" (3:17) means
compassionate, kind, not vindictive.
Our Lord said in Luke 6:36, "Be ye therefore
merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
- People that are merciful are fruitful -- "full of mercy
and good fruits."
- "Without partiality" means no favoritism (cf.
- "Without hypocrisy" means sincere, not phony, no
THE WRONG KIND OF WISDOM COMES FROM THE DEVIL
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 possessions, 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).
- The worldly man
is proud of his success and jealous of any competitors. James says "glory not"
(3:14), i.e. do not boast. First
Corinthians 1:31 says, "That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the
- Notice the
steps downward: bitter envying and strife leads to boasting, which leads to
lying and deceit (3:14).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.
- We do not hear
many sermons these days against worldliness because most preachers are
themselves pretty worldly, or they are afraid to offend their worldly
- 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.
- 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"
- Worldly wisdom
produces the wrong results Ė "confusion and every evil work" (3:16).Wrong
thinking produces wrong living.
TRUE WISDOM BRINGS GODíS BLESSINGS
- James 3:18
links together chapters 3 and 4.
- James 3:17 says
that true wisdom is peaceable. James 4:1 starts off by mentioning "wars and
fightings." (There were no chapter
divisions in the original writings.)
- James is
declaring an important Bible principle Ė you reap what you sow
- The wise man
demonstrates "the fruit of righteousness" (3:13, 17), because he sows "in peace"
- The wise man
obeys Godís Word and sows righteousness, not sin.
- There is a
popular phony "pseudo-Christianity" today a 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.
- They cannot
create "the fruit of righteousness."
Only the Holy Spirit can do that (3:18).
- 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"
- Let me ask you
a few simple questions: Do you serve the Lord without caring who gets the
credit? Are you
- Do you harbor
jealousy and envy in your heart?
- There is
an old proverb. Some say it is from the Persians or Chinese or maybe the Arabs,
He that knows not, and knows not that he knows not; he
is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not; he is
simple. Teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows; he is asleep.
He who knows, and knows that he knows; he is a wise man.