Summary: Characteristics of godly wisdom are examined.
Discerning True Wisdom (II)
Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principle thing: Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” If wisdom is to be our principle pursuit in life we need to know exactly what the Scripture is talking about when it tells us to get wisdom. What does the wisdom we are pursuing look like in a person’s life. Is it a guru wrapped in a white sheet sitting on some mountain spitting out proverbs? Is it a CEO who can outmaneuver everyone else and somehow rise to the top of the business world? Do we need Donald Trump to show us what wisdom is? I for one am not interested in the kind of wisdom Donald Trump has to offer. James shows us the kind of wisdom we should be pursuing in life. Last week we were in the second half of James 3. There we saw a contrast between godly wisdom that should be the pursuit of our lives versus worldly wisdom that James tells us is “earthy, sensual, demonic.” One wisdom comes from God. The other comes out of our own carnal thinking.
This morning we want to make sure we understand what godly wisdom looks like in its operation. James gives us a full description of that wisdom in verse 17 of James 3. That is our text this morning. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, and good fruits, without partiality and with out hypocrisy.” Look with me at those seven characteristics of godly wisdom.
1st and foremost godly wisdom is PURE.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
This is primarily addressing the motives behind our actions. Why we do something is just as important as what we do. Paul was talking about the motives of the heart in I Cor. 13 when he wrote, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” That is an amazing statement. You mean I could do all those wonderful things and it count for nothing in the eyes of God? That’s exactly what Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 13. God looks upon the heart. He knows why you’re here this morning. He knows our every thought. He is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
When we look in the gospels we find a group of religious people known as Pharisees. These people were highly respected in the community. They did some very nice things. They taught the Bible diligently. They gave alms. They tithed on every dime they got. They were faithful to attend services every Sabbath. Yet those are the very people who resisted Jesus most and ultimately demanded Christ’s death. In Matt 23:5 Jesus said, “... all their works they do to be seen by men.” Oops! All those good things were being done for all the wrong reasons. And James is saying you don’t even get to first base when you operate that way.
Purity of heart (pure motives) is foundational to every other characteristic James will give us for godly wisdom. Prov. 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (NIV). It is possible to sit in church Sunday after Sunday and backslide while doing it? If we don’t guard our hearts—if we don’t get before the Lord on a regular basis and let Him search our hearts—we can drift away from the Lord. We can find ourselves just going through the motions of worship with no heart-felt love for the Lord. We can find ourselves doing good things just to ease our conscience a little. We can find ourselves drawing near to God with our lips with our hearts drifting farther and farther away from Him.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (NIV). All else flows from the thoughts and intents of the heart. When I’m trying to get direction from the Lord on any matter, one of the first things I do is invite the Holy Spirit to examine my motives. “Search my heart, Oh God, and show me what’s motivating me in this situation.” Why do that? Because if the motive is right, God can help you sort out the details and get to where you need to be. But if I am coming to God with impure motives, I am already off course. I’m not going to get where I need to be. James later says in Ch. 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” In other words, the motives are wrong so you ask for the wrong thing. And God in His wisdom does not grant the request.