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Two Kinds of Wisdom


Sermon shared by Aaron Burgess

October 2008
Summary: This sermon was given at Echo Church in Walnut Hills, a neighborhood of Cincinnati. We were going through the book of James. This sermon looks at the difference between worldly and godly wisdom. Wordly wisdom is the ability to live in harmony with the
Series: James
Denomination: Independent/Bible
Audience: General adults
Two Kinds of Wisdom
James 3:13-18

If you have your Bibles please open up to James chapter 3. We will be looking at verses 13-18. Now tonight we are going to veer off in a kind of weird direction at first but we will get to the point of the passage. So please stick with me.

Verse 13-14
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James is going to address the topic of wisdom. In fact, wisdom is the central theme in the book of James.

When we started studying the book of James, Steve Carr said that many theologians including Martin Luther struggled with James’ theology because it was so full of laws, do’s and dont’s and we’ve been taught that the gospel is not about works but about grace. We are not under law but grace. So what is up with James opening up a can of legalism on us? Isn’t this a contradiction of sorts?

This is why it is important to put the book of James in its proper context. The book of James is a specific type of literature known in the ancient world as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature was primarily proverbial, it was full of quick witty sayings; usually was poetic; very directive and often contain very obvious advice. This literature taught you how to be a wise person and how to make good decisions. Wisdom literature usually focused on topics like understanding and discernment and knowledge.

The Torah (Old Testament) contains wisdom literature; Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are wisdom literature. Job is also considered wisdom literature. Other ancient cultures also had wisdom literature. The sayings of Confucius are wisdom literature. The Egyptians had wisdom literature. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle wrote volumes on wisdom. In fact, the word philosophy means:

Philo - “Love”
Sophia – “Wisdom”

In the ancient world wisdom was considered to be the highest of all of man’s pursuits and led to what Plato called “the good life.” In Aristotle’s estimation wisdom and morality went hand in hand. The good life was a moral life.

The Old Testament also held wisdom in high regards.
Proverbs 8:11, "For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.
Proverbs 16:16, “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”

Wisdom was the key to prosperity, success and living to a ripe old age. In those days if you survived to old age, you must have been wise to avoid death because people usually died early. Wisdom was so sought after in the ancient world that when Solomon was asked by God in 1 Kings 4 of all thing in this world what do want, Solomon said “wisdom.”
Now if God came to you and was going to grant you a wish what would you wish for besides three more wishes. I would say most of us would wish for riches or money, maybe health. Solomon said, “wisdom” and the Bible says that Solomon was wiser than all the sages of his day. In fact, Solomon was considered the wisest man who ever lived.

James is a book of wisdom. In fact, much of what James writes about you can find in the book of Proverbs. For instance James talked about the tongue. Proverbs talks also extensively about the tongue:

Proverbs 15:22 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
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