Summary: There are two types of wisdom—man’s wisdom and the kind of wisdom that only comes from God. The kind of true wisdom that only comes from God is evidence of real faith.
1. Introduction (13)
2. Roots of test-failing wisdom (14)
3. Attributes of test-failing wisdom (15)
4. Fruits of test-failing wisdom (16)
Have you ever flown on one of those little puddle-jumper airplanes? I have and let me tell you, they’re not very much fun. If you’re in one of those and you hit turbulence, it will do wonders for your prayer life. A story is told about four people who were the only people on board one of those small planes. There was the pilot, a pastor, a Boy Scout, and the smartest man in the world. All of a sudden, the pilot came back to the cabin and informed everybody that the plane was going down. Then he let them know that there were only three parachutes on board. He said, “I’ve got a wife and three kids at home.” So he grabbed a parachute and jumped out. The rest of them looked at each other until the genius stood up and grabbed one. He said, “I’m the smartest man in the world. Everybody needs my awesome brain power.” Then before they could say anything, he jumped out. Then the pastor smiled at the boy and said, “Son, you’re young and I’m prepared to meet the Lord. You take the last parachute and I’ll go down with the plane.” The Boy Scout just laughed and said, “Chill out, preacher. The smartest man in the world just jumped out of the plane with my backpack on.” Sometimes there’s a difference between book-smarts and wisdom, isn’t there? As a matter of fact, there are even differences in wisdom. This morning and next week, we’ll be looking at what James has to tell us about wisdom. In verses 13-18 he describes two kinds of wisdom. He calls them worldly wisdom and wisdom from above. Man’s wisdom and the kind of wisdom that only comes from God. So far, James has given us four tests to see whether or not our faith is genuine faith. He’s given us the Bible test, the preference test, the works test, and the tongue test. Now, he’s giving us the wisdom test. Does that mean you have to be smart to have faith? Of course not. What it means is that if your faith is real, you will be wise. Not necessarily wise in the world’s eyes, but you will have the wisdom from above—real wisdom. You will have test-passing wisdom. I want each of us to truly be wise—not in the eyes of the world. But I want each of us to pass the wisdom test by being wise in the eyes of God. It’ll take us a couple of weeks to do that, because we’ve got to look at both kinds of wisdom. The kind that fails the faith test and the kind that passes it. This week, we’re going to look at the kind of wisdom that fails the faith test. Next week we’ll see the kind of wisdom that passes the faith test. Each kind of wisdom has three characteristics—roots, attributes and fruits. This morning we’re going to look at the kind of wisdom we don’t want. We’re going to look at three characteristics of test-failing wisdom. The first characteristic of test-failing wisdom is its roots. Look with me in verse 14.
Did you know that tree roots can extend out till they cover an area up to three times the height of the tree? You might never realize that until one of those roots pokes its way into your sewer line. Or one begins to grow into your house foundation. We’ve all seen people pour concrete next to trees without even thinking about it. Then the next thing you know, the tree roots have cracked and heaved it to the point it’s almost destroyed. Why do people do that? Because you can’t see the tree roots. They’re hidden away from where people can see them. They exist quietly beneath the surface. But every part of the tree exists because of what is carried to it by those hidden roots. If the roots are diseased, the tree will be diseased. The leaves will be diseased. The fruit will be diseased. Isn’t that the way the heart is? Of course, I’m not talking about the organ in our chest that pumps our blood. I’m talking about our innermost self. Our innermost being. Who we really are. The part that’s hidden away, deep down inside of us. James tells us that the root of test-failing wisdom is the heart. But what kind of a heart is it? It is a heart that is full of bitter envying. Bitter envying is harsh, sharp, cutting, divisive jealousy. Have you ever gotten caught in a briar bush? You know how you pull off one branch just to get caught up in another. Sometimes the more you struggle to get out, the deeper you get stuck. That’s the picture that the original word for bitter paints. Bitter envying is envious jealousy that clings to your insides like a briar bush. It tears, it clings, it shreds. The root of test-failing wisdom is a heart that is full of bitter envying. But not only is it full of bitter envying, it is full of strife. The original word for strife that James talks about carries the meaning of intense rivalry brought on by extreme selfishness. Some other translations use the words selfish ambition. That captures the idea pretty well. In and of itself, ambition isn’t a bad thing. But this kind of selfish ambition is. It’s the kind of ambition that is only interested in being number 1. The kind that has the attitude that second place is the first loser. The kind that is focused only on being the top dog—always in competition. I’m not talking about friendly competition. I’m talking about the kind of competition that seeks to elevate you above everybody else in everything you do. If you want to know what this kind of selfish ambition and strife is all about, watch TV commercials for a while. That’s what they all feed. They tell us it’s all about us. Our feelings, our desires, our pleasures, our happiness, our achievement, our prosperity, our health, our fun. Another place you can look to see what this kind of selfish ambition and strife is all about is on the religious channel. The fact is that most of the so-called TV preachers preach solely to your felt needs. They do the same things that the TV commercials do. They focus on your feelings, your happiness, your achievement, your prosperity, your health. And then they blaspheme God by making Him out to be some sort of a genie whose only purpose is to feed hearts that are full of strife and selfish ambition. The root of test-failing wisdom is a heart that is full of bitter envying and strife. It is also full of self-glorying. A self-glorying heart is one that is arrogant. One that boasts and brags and always says “look at me”. We love to get awards, don’t we? We love trophies and plaques and certificates. Why? Because they show people how important we are. They let people know how good we are. They point the spotlight right where we think it ought to be—right at us. Put me up on stage and let everybody clap for me—I deserve it. That is arrogant. That is self-glorifying. And a heart that is full of that, is the root of test-failing wisdom. Bitter envying, full of strife, self-glorifying. That kind of heart is the root of the wrong kind of wisdom. The kind of wisdom that the world glorifies. Is your heart caught up in the briars of envy and jealousy? Does it selfishly elevate you above others? Is it arrogant and self-glorifying? James says, the kind of wisdom that comes from a heart like that is completely incompatible with being a Christian. As a matter of fact, he says that if you call yourself a Christian and have a heart like that, you’re lying against the truth. Why? Because a bitter, contentious, arrogant, self-centered heart is the very root of worldly wisdom. And worldly wisdom is test-failing wisdom. The first characteristic of test failing wisdom is its roots. The second characteristic is its attributes. Look at verse 15: