James Chapters 3-4: What kind of wisdom do you have?
The last time I was in this pulpit, I preached on integrity. Today’s sermon focuses on Wisdom.
Do you consider yourself wise? How about smart? Do you think that you use 10% of your brain or 100%? The letter of James takes a look at some of these questions, and science gives us some answers as well.
When I was growing up it was considered a fact that most people use about 10% of their brain. Now, with MRIs and CAT scans, scientists tell we use our whole brain. Even when we sleep, it’s processing. That’s the good news and the bad news.
How about smarts? Here, we have the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Probably most of us would agree you can have knowledge, without being wise. Wisdom is about how you use the knowledge you have.
Two Kinds of Wisdom
Wisdom is not just acquired information, but practical insight with spiritual implications.
James, in chapters 3 and 4, talks about two kinds of wisdom: Human wisdom and Godly wisdom. That’s what we are focusing on today.
Verses 13, 17 and 18 talk about Godly wisdom; and verses 14, 15 and 16 talk about humankind’s wisdom, which only causes trouble.
In verses 13-14, it says that, If a person has wisdom from God, “let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Verse 14 says, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast about it or deny the truth.”
Here immediately is the difference between Godly wisdom, which we receive as a generous gift from God, and Human wisdom, which is selfish and self-promoting.
We have more elections headed our way. It is entirely up you how you vote, but this sermon may help you discern who has Godly wisdom and those who don’t. It’s entirely up to you.
And you may find out this morning, you are wiser than you think.
In verse 13, humbleness and a teachable spirit go together. Here, we see humbleness in a person who understands their personal need for God, for forgiveness, for grace, and extends those qualities to others in a wise way.
Human wisdom or self-promoting wisdom comes from a spirit of self-interest. Me first! This comes from envy and jealousy, the need to criticize others, while boasting of one’s own accomplishments. This is always wrong, especially if you are in a position of power. This behavior often leads to lies, cover-ups, and degrading others. Human wisdom would say, if you are in a position of power, use it for your full self-benefit. That attitude has nothing to do with God.
God’s wisdom would say, “If we are in a position of power, use it to help as many other people as we possibly can.”
In verse 16, we see human wisdom leads to disorder, double-mindedness, and an unlimited number and variety of sins will follow.
However, in verse 17, we can see that Godly wisdom leads to a different kind of behavior. First of all, it moderates our behavior. Even though we may be far from saints, we move toward God and become more of a reflection of His character and nature as we invest in our relationship with Him and others. We seek wisdom that is free of strife and full of peace, consideration, submissive to God, full of mercy, sincerity, following in Jesus’ foot-steps.
Fruits of Godly Wisdom
Godly wisdom, which God gives us as a gift, is pure enough to approach God. It resides in a mind that thinks Godly thoughts.
This wisdom is peaceable. It reflects a right relationship with God, with oneself and with others. This Wisdom brings people together and draws us closer to God.
Godly wisdom seeks justice. It steps in where the law itself becomes unjust, in God’s view. Where applying the letter of the law would be wrong. To balance justice with mercy; as Mathew Arnold puts it, a “sweet reasonableness.” It may have been a while since you experienced anything that could be called sweet reasonableness, but I encourage you in your own personal dealings to consider trying sweet reasonableness. It can bring peace, instead of conflict.
Godly wisdom is ever ready to obey God when God calls, willing to listen to reason, and skilled in knowing when to yield and when to press on.
Godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. It is the person who is in trouble who needs mercy.
Godly wisdom is undivided. It knows its mind, it stays on course.
Godly wisdom is without hypocrisy, it does not deal in deception, it is honest and trustworthy, it never pretends to be what it is not, and it is not involved in self-interest.
The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who seek peace and pursue it.
Fruits of Human Wisdom
Nothing good comes out of a person who is bitter, holds grudges, stirs up strife, whose soul is dry and hard. Seeds of righteousness cannot grow there.
A person who disputes and destroys and is responsible for strife, bitterness, and grief has willingly cut themselves off from God, or at the least is moving away from God.
As we move on to Chapter 4:1, we read here a strong rebuke for those who are envious and jealous. These qualities can only lead to dissension, fights and quarrels, harsh words, criticism and slander. None of us want to head down that path.
A Jewish philosopher observed, “I have often wondered why those who make boast of professing the Christian religion – namely love, joy, peace, temperance and charity to all men – should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily toward one and another such bitter hatred, rather than the virtues which they profess.”
Some battles must be fought, but without sacrificing Christian principles and virtues.
Pray the Heart of God
I find the passage in Chapter4:2c-3 the most interesting verse in the passage!
“You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
We are still talking about having Godly wisdom when we pray and how we pray? I’m going to cut to chase here because I wrote 422 pages on prayer for my doctoral thesis.
This is what I am absolutely sure of: Praying the heart of God guarantees answered prayer. The answer is already on the way.
How to pray for Godly Wisdom
Final story this morning: A true story of large, green, leafy vegetables.
I want you to keep these 4 things in mind about prayer, while I tell the story.
- Start with praying for forgiveness to clean your pipeline to God.
- Ask God to show you what he wants you to pray for.
- Spent enough time with God to be able to hear His voice clearly.
- Then, pray what comes to your mind, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
Now, here is what happened:
I was the pastor of Porterville First Christian Church.
One of the main focuses of that church’s ministry was healing prayer. The church grew rapidly because of all the prayer.
Leafy Green Vegetables
One day a woman came to my office asking for prayer.
I knew who she was, because she had come to a few community dinners.
She worked in a bar and had used a lot of drugs. She had gotten sick from drug use and wanted prayer for healing. So I prayed for her.
I started by asking God for forgiveness of the sins in my life, so that I could hear God clearly. Then I asked God to tell me how he wanted me to pray for her. I waited.
Then as it came to mind, I prayed, for peace and comfort, healing, restoration and some other things.
Then, God asked me to pray for her to eat more large, green, leafy vegetables.
I paused and checked in with God before I spoke those words, just to make sure I had heard God right. Yes, I had, He assured me.
So, I finished up the prayer with, “And God, if you could, help her eat more large, green, leafy vegetables. Amen.”
When I looked up she was crying. I gave her a moment and asked, ”Was it something I prayed?”
She nodded her head up and down. “Yes, it was the large, green, leafy vegetables!”
“Pastor, you had no way of knowing that, this week, I went into the doctor, and he told me to eat more large, green, leafy vegetables. Only God could have told you that. When you prayed that, I knew God loved me so much to have you pray that for me. Please Pastor I want to ask Jesus into my life and be saved.”
And so she did.
When we pray God’s heart, with right motives, things happen. You can count on it!