Summary: What kind of wisdom passes the test of faith? The kind of wisdom that James describes as only coming from above.
1. Roots of test-passing wisdom (17a)
2. Attributes of test-passing wisdom (17b)
3. Fruits of test-passing wisdom (18)
Who is a wise man? What is wisdom? It’s interesting that two people who are known for their wisdom asked that very same question. Solomon did. In Ecclesiastes 8:1 he asked, “Who is as the wise man and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing?” Another person who asked that question is the great Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates was the teacher of Plato who was the teacher of Aristotle, who are known as the greatest philosophers of the western world. Socrates spent his whole life on a quest for wisdom. His quest looked a lot like Solomon’s, but unlike Solomon, Socrates died without finding it. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon found true wisdom in the only place it can be found—in the Word of God. Socrates didn’t acknowledge the Word of God, so he never found what he spent his whole life looking for. But that didn’t stop people from coming to him looking for wisdom. A story is told of an arrogant young man who came to Socrates looking for wisdom. Socrates took him out to the sea and led him chest-deep into the water. Then he asked him, “What do you want?” The young man said, “Wisdom, oh wise Socrates.” So, Socrates proceeded to push him under the water. After about 30 seconds, he let the boy up and asked him again, “What do you want?” The young man sputtered, “Wisdom oh great and wise Socrates.” Socrates pushed him under water again. 30 seconds passed, 35, 40. Then he let him up. “What do you want?” This time the boy was gasping and choking. But between breaths, he managed to get out, “Wisdom, oh great and…” This time he didn’t even finish his sentence before Socrates dunked him. 30, 40, 50, 55, one full minute later, Socrates finally let him up. “What do you want?” “Air! I need air!” That was the lesson. Socrates told him, “When you desire wisdom as much as you just desired air, then you will have it.” Think about that for a second. Air is something you don’t pay a whole lot of attention to until you don’t have it. But when you don’t have it, it is the only thing you can think about. If you’ve ever gotten hit in the stomach and gotten the wind knocked out of you, you know what I’m talking about. This morning, we’re continuing what we started last week. We’re looking at James’ fifth test to determine whether our faith is real or not. This fifth test is the wisdom test. Last week when we looked at verses 14-16, we saw what test-failing wisdom looks like. We saw the roots, attributes and fruits of test-failing wisdom. That’s not the kind of wisdom we want, is it? We want the kind of wisdom that passes the test of faith. The kind of wisdom that demonstrates true belief in Jesus Christ. The kind of wisdom that shows the world what saving faith really looks like. That’s the kind of wisdom I want each of us to have this morning. I don’t want any one to leave this place without real, test-passing wisdom. In order to do that, we’re going to see what real test-passing wisdom looks like. We’re going to look at the roots, attributes and fruits of test-passing wisdom. First let’s look at the roots. Look with me at the first part of verse 17:
The roots of test-passing wisdom is a pure heart. If you were here last week, you remember that we talked about the heart being the root of wisdom. Just like we can’t see tree roots, we can’t see the heart. But if the heart is full of bitter envying, selfish ambition, and self-glorying, it is going to be evident. That’s the kind of heart that produces test-failing wisdom. Test-failing wisdom that is earthly, sensual and of the devil. Test-failing wisdom that can only result in evil works and confusion. But just like a heart full of bitter envying, selfish ambition and self-glorying is the root of test-failing wisdom… a heart that is first pure is the root of test-passing wisdom. So what does it mean for you to have a pure heart? A pure heart is the kind of heart that’s going to see God. Remember back to the Sermon on the Mount? In what we have come to call the sixth Beatitude, our Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Isn’t that wonderful! People with pure hearts get to see God. But how does that work? How pure is Jesus talking about here? Is he talking Ivory soap pure? You remember the old Ivory Soap commercials that talked about it being 99 44/100% pure? Still, if you think about it, that allows for over a half percent of yucky stuff. I don’t believe that I’d want to drink a glass of water that contained over a half-percent raw sewage in it, would you? Will God let that much impurity into His presence? Well, maybe he’s talking about gold bullion pure. The standard purity for gold bullion is 99.9% pure. That might be enough to get you into Fort Knox, but it’s still not pure enough to get you into God’s presence. 1/10 of 1% will surely be enough to keep you out. What about Canadian Gold Maple Leaf pure? That is the purest form of gold in the world. It is minted to 99.999% purity. Surely, if I could get my heart that pure, God would let me into His presence, wouldn’t He? Jesus addressed that a little further on in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:48, He said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Not really good. Not hard-working. Not super nice. Not even close to perfect. Perfect. That’s the standard. Why? Because God is perfect. And if He allows Himself to be joined in relationship with imperfect beings, He will no longer be perfect. He will be tainted—corrupted—defiled. And that can’t happen to God, or He will no longer be God. So, that sounds like an impossible standard, doesn’t it? Where does that kind of perfectly pure heart come from? Where does the kind of perfectly pure heart that is the only root of test-passing wisdom come from? James says that it comes from above. Because of our fallen, sin-marred condition, we are all born with a corrupt heart. And in and of ourselves, there’s nothing that we can do to change that. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” No one can except Christ. The One who gave up His place in Heaven as part of the eternal Godhead. The One who took on human flesh. The One who took on a heart like yours and mine, except that His was free from sin. He is the only One who can know your desperately wicked heart. Because He had a heart of flesh just like yours. He was tempted in every way that you are, except He didn’t sin. And because He had a heart of flesh like yours. And because He didn’t sin. He is able to take away your desperately wicked heart and give you a new one. A heart that’s pure. A heart that’s perfect. Not with your perfection, but with His. A heart that will see God. A heart from above. A heart that is the roots of test-passing wisdom. A pure heart is the roots of test-passing wisdom. Not only does test-passing wisdom have roots, it also has attributes. Look with me at the rest of verse 17: