Life App - Wisdom
We are in the midst of a study of the book of James, and I have been reminded that there are times that James doesn’t just step on my toes, but there are times I feel like he’s made it all the way up to my knees. Specifically, over the past few weeks as he has talked about our faith and how that can be seen in the way that we live and especially in the way that we talk. Last week we noticed that we need to be wise with our words because they have immense power in our lives and the lives of others. The whole theme of the book of James seems to be living out your faith in both what you say and what you do. If we are going to make a claim about our beliefs, we had better behave accordingly since our faith is shown by our actions.
This morning James is going to continue that discussion and he is going to ask us a probing question; Who is wise and understanding among you? (13) Wisdom is a funny thing, because we have more knowledge at our fingertips today than ever before. Because of smart phones, and search engines like Google we have instant access to a wealth of information at a moments notice. We can know who sang a certain song? Who won the battle of Waterloo, or how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop, all in an instant.
So with our instant access to all this knowledge and information, do you think we’re any wiser? Our section of the letter this morning begins with the text that that was read for us. And the best way I know how to describe what James is trying to convey comes from and Illustration I got from Francis Chan.
I have brought with me this morning two different breakfast drinks, This one is a favorite of mine Chocolate milk. And then I also brought another favorite Orange Juice. James reminds us that our wisdom is not only seen in our behavior, but in our words and sometimes our words show an extreme lack of wisdom. It’s like at one moment we say, God I love you so much (drink the Chocolate Milk) and then the next minute we say, I hate this person (drink the Orange Juice). God, you are so Holy (Chocolate Milk) and then we say Did you hear about what they did? (Orange Juice) God I want to tell the world how great you are (Chocolate Milk) That person is so horrible, I can’t believe them (Orange Juice). And we go back and forth and back and forth until we end up mixing our words (pour some Chocolate Milk into the Orange Juice) and everything out of our mouths show a total lack of wisdom. (Take a drink)
When we use our mouths to bless God and then turn around and use the very same mouth to tear down someone created in Gods image, James says we have a complete lack of wisdom. To James wisdom has nothing to do with your intelligence and everything to do with your character. That’s the last part of verse 13: Who is wise and understanding among you. Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. Obviously, knowledge and education are not enough. It’s not enough to just claim to be wise or even to understand something. We must show it by how we live.
The phrase good life in this text is what we are all striving for, we all want to live the good life. Unfortunately for far to many people today have confused the good life with possessions, power, popularity and pleasure. James says when we chase after the things this temporal world offers, we show that we have lost our way, and true wisdom eludes us.
I want you to imagine for a moment that James walked into our fellowship and asked, If you believe you are wise would you please raise your hand. Maybe in a moment of pride you raised your hand only to quickly realize the first question just sets up the second, Can show me your wisdom by your lifestyle? James is going back to what he already said in James 2:18 says: I will show you my faith by what I do. It's not a matter of what you say but a matter of how you live your life. It’s not about the diplomas on the wall, but your temperament and how well you get along with other people, that’s true wisdom.
In verse 17 of our text this morning James gives us the characteristics of a wise person, a way to see if we would be able to actually raise our hand to his question. So this morning I thought it would be a good use of our time together to at the characteristics found in verse 17 and ask ourselves a few questions. James says: 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.
First question: Do I compromise my integrity? - The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.
James says wisdom is pure or undefiled, and he uses the same word that Paul uses in Titus 1:15, Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. If we are really genuine, really wise, our lives will be pure, and we will see the purity in others. But a immoral heart sees life and people through the distortions of their wickedness. There is a kind of paranoia that attaches itself to the unwise. A impure heart sees and imagines flirting and betrayal and deception where none exists. They live lives that are filled with self deception and an attempt to deceive others.
When the heart is pure, we can see through the deceptions and distortions of the truth. Purity of heart is primarily about motives. I have to take an honest look at what I’m really trying to get. Am I honestly wanting a fair and objective solution; or am I just trying to maneuver and get my own way? In verse 16 James has just said, For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. He is specifically contrasting a pure heart to one filled with envy and self-seeking.
In our desire to be wise, we must strive to be pure, and not settle to be like Ivory Soap…. Okay, some of you are confused, while others are old enough to you remember what they used as their advertising slogan back in the 70’s and 80’s. Ivory Soap was 99% pure. But we were never told what was in that other 1%. 99% might be good for soap, unless the other 1% is toxic. In the same way, only having integrity 99% of the time, is not enough. Who would want to be married to someone who was only faithful 99 days out of every 100?
Question 2, Do you provoke people’s anger? - Wisdom is peace loving
A wise person will not intentionally set out to make you angry. Wise people strive to be peacemakers or as William James so aptly said, The secret of wisdom is knowing what to overlook. Do you know people who are always always looking for a fight? Have you ever met someone who is always looking for an argument? I heard about one guy who was so argumentative he would only eat food that disagreed with him. Wise people refuse to antagonize people's anger.
Peace loving is not the same as peace at any price, because that kind of peace seldom lasts. Wise people have the ability to do the difficult work of resolution that brings lasting peace in our relationships. That’s far more valuable than winning the argument, far more important than out-debating the other person, much more valuable than justifying my own actions. While purity speaks of your relationship with God, peace-loving shows our ability to fulfill the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. If your go to emotion is to fight then Solomon would say that you are a fool. Actually he said in Proverbs 20:3 says Any fool can start arguments. The wise thing is to stay out of them.
Question three, Do you consider other people’s feelings? - Wisdom is considerate
There is a certain arrogance associated with the attitude that someone’s feelings are not valid or wrong because they are different from mine. It’s foolish to belittle the way someone feels or to discount their fears or concerns.
Maybe you have played the My day can beat your day game? You know that game, a husband comes home worn out and starts complaining, Today was horrible, my boss got upset, the air conditioning went out, and I spilled coffee all over my pants. And the wife says, That sounds like a picnic compared to my day, Your son tried to baptize the cat in the toilet, while I was cleaning up that mess the roast burned in the oven, and today was just so hectic that I didn’t even get the chance to start the laundry so you could have something clean to wear tomorrow.
The truth is that both of you had a terrible day, so why are you trying to minimize it? Wisdom is considerate and allows your spouse to be tired without having to say, I'm more tired that you are, when the truth is you're both tired. I have found it very helpful to stop every now and then and reconsider the type of Kingdom to which God has called me. I need to be reminded from time to time that God is more interested in the eternal destiny of the people I meet, than my preferences, tolerances, or druthers. When I operate out of pride, I have walked away from the spirit of God. A considerate spirit cares about and validates the feelings of the other person.
Question four, Do you criticize other peoples decisions or suggestions? – Wisdom is submissive
The Teacher says in Proverbs 12:15 Fools always think their own way is best, but wise people listen to advice. A wise person knows that they can learn from everyone and every situation while a fool is defensive and stubborn. The NIV says that Wisdom is submissive, while the Revised Standard Version says, It's open to reason. and the Living Bible says, It allows discussion.
There are those who truly believe that stubborn leadership is strong leadership, and while I agree there is a time to be stubborn, it is almost always a better option to be able to reason. The stubborn person might win the argument, but in the process they will trash the relationship. The wise person has an open mind; they understand that there might be something they don’t know. A wise person is someone you can reason with. The Bible says if you're wise, you're reasonable. You're open to suggestions. And foolish people say don't confuse me with the facts; I've made up my mind. I’ve thought about it, prayed about it, and I cannot be persuaded. When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you.
People of wisdom, are rarely defensive. Have you noticed that as our culture grows more and more politically correct, we have placed a premium on being oversensitive or offended. If somebody has a different point of view we take it as a personal criticism about our worth as a person. If someone disagrees with us we take it as a personal slap. James says the wise are different, they are willing to listen and learn from anyone and anything. They understand there is wisdom in the counsel of others. So if you want to be wise don't get defensive. If it's true, listen and learn from it. If it's false, ignore it and forget it. If I'm wise I'll be open to reason. I won't criticize your suggestions. I'll listen to them.
Last question, Do you like to emphasize the mistakes of others while hiding your own weaknesses? - Wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
The wise person understands that we are all broken people, living in a broken world. The foolish feel that it is their responsibility to point out and pile on every time someone makes a mistake. James says wisdom is full of mercy.
There are several ways that we allow this unwise behavior to creep into our lives. Maybe you use someone’s past mistakes as leverage, Remember the time you did… or maybe you have a habit of being historical with folks? Every time a mistake is made you delve back 2 weeks to 20 years and bring up every mistake that person ever made. The fool needs to point out the sins of others in an effort to elevate their status in the community. They need to remind everyone else about their failures while hiding their own. This is the height of hypocrisy. Once again we see that the teacher says in Proverbs 28:13 You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.
A wise person doesn’t try to hide and disguise their own weaknesses. James actually writes that a wise person is without hypocrisy. If you're smart and wise, you're not phony. You don't try to be something you're not. If we are going to become what Christ called us to be then we have to quit pretending that this is a perfect church filled with perfect people. God established the church to be a place where real people, with real sins, real hang ups, real faults, real emotional problems, and real family problems can come and journey together.
A wise Christian is genuine, real and authentic. They don't pretend that they are perfect. If I'm wise I'm not going to disguise my weaknesses. There are so many phony relationships today. People try to be something they're not. It's foolish to pretend that you're perfect, that you've got it all together because in reality nobody does. When you start confessing your weaknesses, people will not be shocked because they already know. Everybody knows your weakness. You're the only one who won't admit it.
Followers of Christ are called to encourage and give mercy. You don't just show sympathy. You don't just say, I feel for you, but we both know you brought it all on yourself. A wise person doesn’t need to point out and harp on the mistakes of others. They are full of mercy, ready to give others what they need and not what they deserve. Because they understand the last thing anyone of us needs is more judgment. Mercy is a greater principle than judging.
So how did you do on the wisdom test? Are you living wisdom personified or are you honest enough to admit that you don’t have it all together yet? My favorite thing about wisdom is that it is a gift from God. We get knowledge by looking around and wisdom by looking up. Knowledge is something you learn. Wisdom is a gift.
James began this letter with: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. (1:5) Wisdom is a gift from God. I sometimes ask 10 times a day, God, give me wisdom. I want to be wise more than anything else. If I'm loving and I'm wise, I'm going to make it in life. If you're loving and wise you're going to make it in life. Ask of God who gives generously. He loves to give.
Paul writes in Colossians 2:3 The secret is Christ Himself. In Him lie hidden all God's treasures of wisdom. True wisdom is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. If you want God's wisdom get Jesus in your life.
The wisest thing I ever did was give my life to Jesus Christ. That's where wisdom comes from. When you get God's wisdom in your life, day by day, as you allow Him into your life and develop your character, you'll find your relationships getting better and better. Even if the person on the other end isn't making an improvement, they'll get better because you're getting better. You know how to relate wisely instead of stupidly to people.