• Tony Birkhead

The right TOOLS for the job



Pursue Godly Wisdom with Passion!

INTRODUCTION

There is a crazy thing that happens when you get in your car. You choose where you want to go, then you head in that direction. Now, I may like the scenic path. I may like to take the road less traveled. The curvy mountain roads. My passenger, on the other hand may like the fastest way possible from point A to point B! Neither one of these is wrong and they both get us to the destination where we want to arrive. The first thing that has to be determined is the destination!

KEY SCRIPTURE

James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

How would you define “wisdom”? When you think of someone wise, who comes to mind? Why?

Is intelligence the same thing as wisdom? If not, what is the difference?

How is wisdom the opposite of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition?

What do you think James means by “such wisdom” being “demonic”? What do you think he means by it being “earthly”? What is the difference in earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom?

Where or to whom do you go for wisdom when you need it? Why?

PRAY TOGETHER

God, you tell us in your word that if any man or woman lacks wisdom we should ask you. Today I am asking you for wisdom. Help me to make the right decisions in the right way at the right time. Help me to be a peacemaker and follow your lead. Amen!

MOVING FORWARD

  • If wisdom is about action, how can we act wisely in our families? Among our friends? While at our jobs?

COMMENTARY

James 3:13-18

3:13. James 3:2–12 presents shortcomings of the tongue to which teachers and all individuals are vulnerable. 3:13–18 reminds us of our need to demonstrate genuine wisdom. The words particularly apply to aspiring teachers, but they have relevance to all believers.

The opening rhetorical question asks how we can show that we have wisdom. Wise refers to someone with moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct. Understanding pictures someone with the knowledge of an expert. We are to show the presence of wisdom by good deeds practiced with humility. Only obedient deeds, not mere talk, prove the presence of wisdom.

Humility refers to a submissive spirit opposed to arrogance and self-seeking. The person with humility is not a doormat for the desires of others, but controls and overpowers the natural human tendency to be arrogant and self-assertive. Non-Christian Greeks felt that this type of humility was a vice. Christianity made meekness into a virtue. “Meek” in Matthew 5:5 is the adjectival form of the noun translated here as humility. Jesus promised the “meek” they would inherit the earth. Jesus meant a believer who relates to God with dependence and contentment will reap God’s abundant blessings.

3:14. Bitter envy and selfish ambition prove that a person is following the route of false wisdom. Envy describes a determined desire to promote one’s opinion to the exclusion of the opinions of others. Selfish ambition pictures a person who tries to promote a cause in an unethical manner. This person becomes willing to use divisive means to promote a personal viewpoint. Bitter rivalries develop out of these practices.

James warned that people who had envy and selfish ambition could boast about it or deny the truth. Boasting describes the malicious triumphant attitude gained by one party over its opponents. Those who choose to deny the truth can end up rejecting the truth of the gospel. Envy of Jesus led the religious leaders to deny his person and power and to plot his death (John 11:47–53).

3:15. This verse uses three adjectives to describe the distinctive traits and source of false wisdom. First, negatively, false wisdom does not come from heaven or from God. Its source is earthly. It belongs to the way of life of this world. Second, false wisdom is unspiritual, belonging to the natural world and not to the supernatural world. It comes from the mental and emotional ideas of fallen human beings. Unfortunately, we Christians are too often guilty of using this twisted wisdom. Finally, this false wisdom is of the devil. Satan uses it to corrupt relationships.

3:16. The results of envy and selfish ambition are disorder and every evil practice. Disorder describes an experience of anarchy and disturbance. Such disarray affects private relationships between Christians and public meetings of believers. Every evil practice pictures an evil from which no good can come. People who cater to selfish ambition need never expect to develop any fruit which is godly, righteous, or helpful to others.

False wisdom promotes self-assertion and independence. It destroys a spirit of mutual concern. Where Christians “do their own thing” instead of caring for one another, a community of support and mercy can disintegrate (see 1 Cor. 1:10–17). Paul outlined a solution for this epidemic of selfish living, telling us to look out for “the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

3:17. True wisdom is free from self-interest and strife. This verse lists eight traits or characteristics of true wisdom. The first is purity. People with true wisdom are pure in that they have put aside the vices of a self-seeking nature and factionalism. This trait provides the secure foundation for all that follows.

The following five traits show the attitude of true wisdom toward other people. Peace-loving means it demonstrates a desire to promote peace between struggling factions. Considerate refers to being reasonable in the demands it makes on others. Submissive indicates a willingness to learn from others by being open to reason. Full of mercy is revealed by offering compassion to those in distress. Full of good fruit is shown by kind actions and helpful deeds to others.

The final two traits describe the essential nature of true wisdom in itself. It is impartial, without prejudice and unwavering in its commitments. True wisdom is sincere, genuine and open in its approaches to others. Jesus particularly showed his genuineness in his dialogues with Pilate (John 18:33–37).

3:18. Verse 18 concludes this section with a description of the effects of true wisdom. True wisdom results in a harvest of righteousness, that is, a conformity to God’s will. True wisdom also lets one experience peace, the enjoyment of harmonious relationships between human beings.

#James #wisdom

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