”Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 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 without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18)
In my search for an illustration to begin this message a funny thing happened. While I was typing on the computer the electricity went off and I lost everything I had typed so far. That is a good illustration of how dependent we are on our power source for everything. God is the source of true faith and God is the source of true wisdom.
It is vitally important that you understand how completely dependent you are on God. Everyone claims to have the answers to life’s questions but only God truly does!
I. The Demand for True Wisdom
A. The Need for True Wisdom (v.13)
Verse 13 reminds us of the great need for true wisdom. Consider all the problems of life that James has presented that require the wisdom of God:
►Trials and Temptations (chapter 1)
► Favoritism in the church (chapter 2)
► Gossip and slander (chapter 3)
There is much today that requires God’s wisdom. Our society (even the church) is filled with families that have no idea what a real father or mother are. The popular culture seeks to eradicate its memory of God. Everyone claims to have the answer but most aren’t even asking the right questions. Truly, wisdom is needed.
B. True Wisdom Is Often Neglected
While wisdom is needed it is all too often neglected. James asks, ”Who is wise and understanding among you?” Wisdom is the application of knowledge. The word, understanding, has an interesting meaning. It speaks of a specialist or professional who could skillfully apply his expertise to practical situations. With all the church faces in this day and time we need to be specialists in the wisdom and understanding of God.
James is saying, “If you have this wisdom, then show it!” The verb here is aorist imperative meaning, “let him start demonstrating.” In other words we show our wisdom through our good conduct (the way we live) and by our meekness of wisdom. Meekness is the opposite of everything in verses 14-16. It is strength under control. True wisdom shows itself through a disciplined and deliberate application of God’s truths in difficult situations.
II. The Denial of True Wisdom (vv.14-16)
A. The Reality of False Wisdom
These readers may protest that they were wise but James notes that their actions and attitudes reflected a denial of true wisdom. Verses 14-15 point out the reality of false wisdom among believers. Much of what claims to be wisdom is actually selfish desires and thoughts. Too many in the church have bitter envy or harsh jealousy. The Greek word used here was often used of politicians. It came to describe anyone who entered politics for selfish reasons and sought to achieve his agenda at any cost, even if that meant trampling on others. This is self-centeredness and it is the hardest attitude to deal with because it means dying to self for it to die. Over and over Scripture warns us to avoid this kind of self-centered thinking (see Romans 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20).
Sometimes we exhibit a self-seeking attitude. The King James Version uses the word strife. This is a spirit of factions and division. Self-seeking is an attitude that seeks to divide others along the line of your opinions or ideas. It is a spirit that seeks to get people on your side. Because this spirit is so destructive Titus 3:9-11 warns us to stay away from self-seeking people.
Have you ever gotten into a heated discussion with another person and you or they said something wrong; then you thought, “Where did that come from?” Verse 15 answers that question. These attitudes are earthly or flesh-bound. Paul told the Philippian Christians, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (3:18-19).
Such attitudes are also sensual or from the natural mind, will, and emotions. Most devastating is the fact that these attitudes are demonic. They are demonic because they serve the Devil’s purposes perfectly. Samuel told Saul that his rebellion was like the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 14:22-23). Saul’s self-centeredness and self-seeking accomplished everything Satan wanted without Satan having to do anything. When we use selfish thinking we play into Satan’s hand.
B. The Resuslts of False Wisdom
Verse 16 shows the certain results of earthly thinking. It causes confusion. This speaks of instability and disorder. Obviously this is not a result of God’s wisdom because He is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Putting these together one can see a progression. These things work out in order:
► First there is entrenched self-centeredness (bitter envy and self-seeking).
► Then we do not want to admit to such tendencies so we boast and lie against the truth by denying our carnal motives. We often even seek to put a spiritual robe around our own selfish desires.
► Finally, such attitudes among God’s people create instability (confusion) and open the door to all kinds of temptations and sins.
III. The Demonstration of True Wisdom (vv.17-18)
A. True Wisdom is Pure
Now that we know what false wisdom is like, we are shown true wisdom in verses 17-18? True wisdom is pure. The wisdom that from above is first of all pure. Purity means there is no mixture of anything foreign.
We need to examine whether the wisdom we claim to have is pure or it is mixed with some of God’s ideas and some of man’s.
B. True Wisdom Is Peaceable
God’s wisdom is also peaceable. It is peaceable because it is gentle. This is not weakness but rather a willingness to listen and see things fairly and completely before speaking. God’s wisdom is also willing to yield (easy to be entreated). This is a wisdom that is ready to be taught when needed. The person with true wisdom has a teachable spirit. Peaceable wisdom is also without partiality. This wisdom is believes and practices the same thing regardless of the people involved. Peaceable wisdom is also without hypocrisy. It is without hidden agendas or ulterior motives.
James 3:18 in the Phillips paraphrase says, “And the wise are peacemakers who go on quietly sowing a harvest of righteousness – in other people and in themselves.” What kind of fruit is your wisdom bearing? The fruit of your life indicates the kind of wisdom you are using.