A. This is graduation weekend, and we want to recognize and congratulate all our graduates, both college and high school.
1. Being graduation weekend, it is the perfect time to talk about wisdom.
2. Today as we look at the end of James chapter 3, we will see how that James contrasts two kinds of wisdom, but before we get there, we need to contrast the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
B. Have you ever met any persons who were absolute geniuses? They seem to know everything?
1. If they were on Jeopardy or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, they would walk away winners.
2. But having knowledge is not the same thing as having wisdom, especially God’s kind of wisdom.
C. Let’s test your knowledge for a minute.
1. How long would it take darkness to cover the earth if the sun went out?
a. 4 ½ minutes; 8 1/3 minutes; 25 minutes, 2 hours?
b. Correct answer: 8 1/3 minutes
2. What is the average speed at which a beard grows per year?
a. 3.94 inches; 5.51 inches; 9.45 inches; 13.39 inches
b. Correct answer: 5.51 inches
3. About how many dimples are there on a golf ball?
a. 100; 200; 400; 600
b. Correct answer: 400
4. It is estimated that Americans throw 7 million of these away everyday.
a. pennies; Publishers Clearing House entries; Michael Bolton C.D.s; unused sheets of paper
b. Correct answer: pennies
5. What animal does cashmere come from?
a. bears; whales; sheep; goats
b. Correct answer: goats
D. Even if you answered all those questions correctly because of your knowledge, not because you are a good guesser, that would not guarantee that you are wise. Smart; knowledgeable, yes.
1. Wisdom is more than knowledge.
2. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts; wisdom is the ability to use those facts responsibly.
3. A major problem of our day is that man’s knowledge has surpassed his wisdom.
E. Now let me give you some examples of wisdom from the lips of children.
1. Patrick, age 10: “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
2. Michael, age 14: “When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.”
3. Lauren, age 9: “Felt markers are not good to use as lipstick.”
4. Joel, age 10: “Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat.”
5. “Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.”
6. “Don’t wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.”
7. “Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a Tic Tac.”
8. “If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse.”
F. As wise, humorous and helpful as those statements are, they are still not the kind of wisdom that James is encouraging us to receive.
G. As we have been studying from James, we have been talking about developing a faith that works.
1. What he has been saying throughout the book is that real faith makes a difference in our lives.
2. Having real faith is demonstrated in how we stand up under our trials and temptations.
3. Having real faith is demonstrated in doing the Word of God, not just hearing it.
4. Having real faith means valuing all people, and being ready to do something to help those in need.
5. Having real faith means controlling our anger and our tongue.
6. So, it should not surprise us, when James comes to the question of wisdom and asks the question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”, that he would answer it any other way than “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.”
I. In verses 13 – 18, James contrasts two kinds of wisdom.
1. James contrasts the ORIGINS of the two kinds of wisdom.
a. Godly wisdom comes from above; it comes from God. But worldly wisdom comes from below; it comes from Satan and is earthly and unspiritual.
2. Next, James contrasts the OPERATIONS of the two kinds of wisdom.
a. Worldly wisdom is characterized by bitter envy, and selfish ambition.
b. Godly wisdom is characterized by being pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit; being impartial and sincere.
c. That is certainly quite a contrast in attitude and behavior, wouldn’t you say?
3. Finally, James contrasts the OUTCOMES of the two kinds of wisdom.
a. Worldly wisdom produces trouble and confusion. It results in disorder and every evil practice.
b. That’s a pretty good commentary on our time, don’t you think?
c. Godly wisdom, on the other hand, produces blessing. It results in a harvest of righteousness.
J. We could spend a lot of time today discussing every one of the things that James lists in these contrasts, and there would be some value in that.
1. But I don’t think that is what James was hoping we would do.
2. I don’t think he intended for us to dissect these lists.
3. I really think he gave us these lists to encourage us to see how opposed these two kinds of wisdom really are, and to help us evaluate ourselves against them.
K. So, if you or I really think we are wise and spiritual, then James is saying: Test yourself, and here is the test.
1. Is your life characterized by bitter envy and selfish ambition?
2. Is there a lot of disorder and evil practice in your life?
3. Then guess what? Godly wisdom is not reigning in your life. Your faith is not complete. It is not working.
4. But, on the other hand, if your life is characterized by good deeds done in humility.
5. And if your life reflects purity, peace-loving, consideration, submissiveness, mercy, impartiality and sincerity, then you are on the right track.
6. You possess godly wisdom and are putting it to work.
7. So, how did you do on the test? Everybody who needs to, say, “I’ve got some work to do!”
L. When we find that we have failed the test, and godly wisdom is not guiding our lives, what should we do?
1. The answer that James gives is very simple: ASK GOD.
2. Back in chapter 1 we read, “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)
3. How about that for a promise? God says, “Ask and you shall RECEIVE.” Do we really believe that?
M. Turn to 1 Kings 3, and let’s be encouraged by something that God did for Solomon.
1. Early in Solomon’s reign as the 3rd king of Israel, the Bible says beginning in verse 5, “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"
2. The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.
3. The very next thing we read about is Solomon’s decision in the case of the two women who both claim to be the mother of a certain child.
a. Solomon ruled, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other." The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!" But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother." (verses 25-27)
b. “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.” (verse 28)
N. Now turn to 1 Kings 10 and witness the conclusion of the Queen of Sheba concerning Solomon:
1. “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.”
2. “She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness." (verses 1-9)
O. Did God keep his promise? Did Solomon receive what he had requested? Yes indeed!
1. And so will we. God has promised that if we ask for His wisdom, he will give it to us.
2. Therefore, it behooves us to be faithfully asking for his wisdom.
3. And then, having received God’s wisdom, we must carefully put it into action in our lives.
P. I want to close today’s lesson by reminding us about the story of Zacchaeus.
1. It is recorded in Luke 19.
2. It’s a story we teach our children, and we have a cute song to help us remember it.
3. But it is a story that can impact us adults even more than it does our children.
4. You know how the story goes, Jesus was walking through Jericho one day.
5. There was a chief tax collector who was wealthy who wanted to see Jesus.
6. He was a short man and a very clever man.
7. He figured out that the only way he was going to see Jesus was to climb up a tree.
8. So he did, never dreaming that Jesus would see him and address him.
9. But when Jesus reached the spot, he looked up at Zacchaeus and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today.” (Lk 19:5)
10. Jesus was criticized by many for identifying himself with a sinner like Zacchaeus.
11. But Zacchaeus was transformed that day by the power of Jesus Christ.
12. See, Zacchaeus had built his life as a cheat, using his clever intellect to amass wealth and power for himself.
13. He was the master of worldly wisdom – clever, manipulative, conniving.
14. He had loved money and used people.
15. He had lived his life according to worldly wisdom and he was very successful at it
16. But when Jesus and his influence came into Zacchaeus’ life he was changed.
17. He stood up and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (19:8)
18. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk. 19:9)
Q. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is transformational.
1. What Jesus did with Zacchaeus, he can do with you and me.
2. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word, God wants to move us from a life characterized by worldly wisdom, to a life characterized by godly wisdom.
3. I hope that each of us here today has come to a place where we are tired of the destruction and disorder that worldly wisdom brings into our lives.
4. I hope that every one of us want the harvest of righteousness that is the result of letting God’s wisdom control our lives.
5. It all begins with a decision to ask God for his wisdom, and to keep asking for it.
6. Solomon wrote, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor." Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:5-13)
7. May God give us His wisdom, and may we use it to live a godly life, to His Glory! Amen!