Summary: Godly wisdom 1. Has a different source. 2. Has a different goal. 3. Has a different result.
Cadillac has a new technology available for their cars called "OnStar." Those purchasing the service have a 24/7 information servant available. OnStar includes a completely hands-free, voice-activated phone — you never have to dial. Through a satellite Global Positioning System (GPS), someone always knows your exact location, so that they can not only tell you that you are in Columbus, but that you are headed south on 315 approaching the Lane Avenue exit. Like a heavenly advisor, they always know where you are and how to get you to where you want to go. You press a button and the OnStar Advisor will give you personalized information on stock quotes, sports scores, weather and road conditions, or news headlines. Like the concierge at a high-end hotel or health club, your virtual Advisor can locate lodging, an ATM, or a spa. They can arrange for tickets to a play or concert, and then make reservations at a restaurant which serves your favorite cuisine. They can tell you what to do in case of an emergency, call the police or an ambulance for you, or locate the closest hospital. If you are having mechanical problems, the onboard computer will diagnose the problem remotely and send it to your OnStar Advisor, who can then either guide you to the nearest mechanic or send a tow truck to your precise location. If your vehicle is stolen, they can track it via satellite and call the police in the area where it has been taken, or give the authorities a running commentary of where your car is being driven.
Modern information technology is overwhelming. The Internet is an exhaustive compendium of knowledge that has no final page. Never has more information been available in the history of the world. In one year you will read more information than most people of the world in times past had available to them in a lifetime. Our news is instant, but generations before us waited weeks or months for important information to arrive. We have information overload. We used to have to try to find enough information, but now we have to try to sort through a staggering amount of information to find what we need to know. In our culture we have so much information but so little wisdom, and yet it is wisdom that makes life fulfilling and rewarding.
The problem with this overload of information is that it becomes confusing. When we are overwhelmed we want someone to come along and tell us what we should do, or even what we should believe. So like the people on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” we ask if we can use our lifelines. First, we try the 50/50. We try to eliminate half the wrong answers, but it still leaves us confused about which is the correct answer among the options that are left. We try a second lifeline and decide to poll the audience. We talk to other people to see what they think. We listen to others talk. We try to decide the ultimate realities of life by taking a poll of popular opinion. People do this because they are afraid to go against the majority and think for themselves. They are afraid that they will be rejected if they don’t go along with what everyone else believes. So they decide to use their third lifeline. They phone a friend. They need someone they can trust. Which brings us to the point of the morning: You have a Friend, and he has the answer you have been looking for.
The first thing we learn from this passage in James is that the difference between godly wisdom and the wisdom of the world is: Godly wisdom has a different source. James talks about the wisdom that comes down from heaven (3:17). The wisdom that we are to strive for is not the wisdom of this world, but the wisdom that comes from heaven. Our thinking is not to be influenced by polling popular opinion or the result of trying to sift through information by ourselves. Our wisdom is to come from God. The Bible speaks of the “mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16). This mystery was God’s plan for the world which no one would have been able to figure out on their own. It is too complex and wonderful. It was hidden through the ages (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:26). The knowledge of this mystery was not available through investigation, it had to be attained through revelation. That is, we could not discover this wisdom through our own effort, but only by asking God to reveal his truth to us. He is the source. That is why James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). This is also why James says that humility is so important in gaining wisdom. We have to be humble, because we have to come to God admitting that we don’t know how to figure life out and we need his help. We don’t even understand what the ultimate issues of life are. The Bible says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).