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Summary: James teaches us about several kinds of wisdom. This message points to those types and gives the RIGHT one to seek.

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How to Do Life

The Right Kind of Wisdom

James 3:13-18

Have you ever met someone who seemingly was a great intellect (book-smart) but had no ‘common’ (horse) sense? It’s almost the mad scientist persona where he can perform great academic feats but has trouble tying his shoe.

In the New Testament, the word for wisdom is ‘sophis’ which means practical knowledge. Knowledge can take things apart but wisdom puts things together. A person of Biblical wisdom is a person of discernment.

Most every person I know wants to possess wisdom, yet wisdom is not sold at the stores or on the internet. From our text, let see three types of wisdom.

1. Demonstrated Wisdom – This would be the wisdom which people naturally see in you. Perhaps you have an uncanny ability to manage money, resolve a conflict, or something else. People are always on the lookout for the wise so we can ask questions, glean counsel, and secure advice.

a. Analysis – Who is actually wise & understanding among you? It would seem that James may be ‘baiting’ the listening crowd just a bit with this question. Remember this letter was first read to Jewish followers, meeting in a synagogue, led by elders, and were a part of the dispersion. Just the word dispersion reminds us that they were, in all likelihood, under persecution for their beliefs. I wonder if, in the initial reading, that the readers stopped at this moment to allow the crowd to answer. My inquiry continues when I think about those who may have ‘raised their hand’ or spoke up to prove their wisdom. I wonder how those who spoke up felt when James had not asked a rhetorical question, but a very practical one in which he answered! Think about James’ chosen words. He didn’t say the wise person should “tell you” how wise he is; rather he should SHOW you how wise He is.

b. Attributes – James now gives the attributes, the characteristics, or the qualities of wisdom listing two; Good Conduct & the Wisdom’s Gentleness. It would seem to me that these two would be described as having a holy heart which controls the rest of his actions. Those who have highly intelligent & learned may possess the world’s knowledge but they lack wisdom which comes from God. Never forget that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and when one fear’s God, life is different. What HCSB translates as good conduct reads good conversation in the KJV. When a person life, heart, mind, and soul, is stayed on Christ, ‘out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth REVEALS” and the actions follow the mouth. Let us never forget that when the Holy Spirit controls us, He uses our minds, He expects us to respond like He would, talk like He would, and act like He would. Bottom line is this; a person’s words & a person’s works paint a picture of what & who that person is. If he’s is filled with the Spirit of God, that spirit will ooze out in what he says and what he does. If not, it will be evident.

c. Antonyms – Not only does James paint a picture of one who possesses wisdom, but he also gives the opposite of this demonstrated wisdom with words like brag, lie, and defy the truth. Solomon was arguably the wisest man who ever lived and these three were not a part of his life. Think about how these concepts are connected: The one who is really high on himself is given to bragging. When you ‘push’ the braggart a bit, he begins to stretch the truth which ultimately will defy (or deny or rebel against) the truth. This person attempts to prove his metal by his words while the scripture teaches that the truly wise person will demonstrate by his actions.

2. Deceptive Wisdom – Verses 15 & 16 shed light on this kind of wisdom.

a. Instigation – When something does not come down from above, then by default, it comes from down below. Either few things or nothing good starts down below, it is evil. Every time man has his own ideas and acts on his own plans & thought, trouble comes. Do you know why? Because since the Garden of Eden, man has been given to follow the evil one. Years ago in a student Sunday school class, a young lady said, “We are born selfish, are selfish, and will die selfish.” Satan is cunning and crafty & will lead us to believe that he’s harmless. But he’s not.

b. Issues – The issues which this type of wisdom deals with are pared down to tow; envy & selfish ambition. The Greek language says, “BITTER ENVY.” Envy carries the idea of selfish ambition. That is, wanting to have what someone else has or wanting to be one someone else is and envy alone is bad enough. The Greek says this is ‘bitter envy.’ That is the word is interesting, first meaning ‘poison’ like the bitter waters spoken of in the Old Testament. But it also connects to the idea of being “fixed” like a tent. Then put the selfish ambition on that same person’s plate and it brings about sad & bad things. Here’s the idea; the one who has this demonic wisdom is set or fixed so desperately on having the position, the power, or the authority of someone else, that there mind and actions poison their thought processes to the point that they use whatever influence they have to point others in their perverse direction. The Results?

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