Summary: A worldly person breaks peace, while a wise person makes peace.
The Wisdom of Being a Peacemaker
Rev. Brian Bill
March 9-10, 2019
Conflict is everywhere, isn’t it? Lady Astor once said to Churchill, “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” Churchill responded with his cutting wit: “Nancy, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!” We laugh at his sarcasm, but it reveals most of us are predisposed to conflict.
Humans have been at war with God ever since Adam and Eve sinned. Beginning with the conflict between Cain and Abel, which eventually led to one brother killing the other, we also find ourselves in bombastic battles with people made in the image of God. Someone said this about Christians: “Where two or three come together in Jesus’ name…there will eventually be conflict.”
Last weekend we learned how to be wise with our words: Control your tongue, or it will control you. The tongue has the power to direct, to destroy and to delight.
Here’s the main idea from James 3:13-18: A worldly person breaks peace, while a wise person makes peace.
Let’s stand and read it together.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James begins with a rhetorical question in verse 13: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Wisdom is the skill of working out practically what God says in His Word. The second half of verse 13 shows wisdom is measured not by degrees, but by deeds: “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” The phrase, “good conduct” speaks of “beautiful behavior.” The idea is “to turn back to the truth.” Unfortunately the “good life” for many today is all wrapped up in possessions, power, popularity and pleasure.
To “show his works” is an emphatic imperative and refers to putting “deeds on display.” It was also used of presenting oneself for inspection. This goes along with James 2:18: “I will show you my faith by my works.” Jesus equated wisdom with obedience in Matthew 7:24: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
The word “meekness” is not a synonym for weakness. It means “power under control” and was used of breaking a high-spirited horse. A wise person is a strong person under God’s control. Wisdom is demonstrated by the way we live and how we act with humility. The true test of wisdom is works, not words.
In the remaining verses of James 3, we see the contrast between the peace-breaker and the peacemaker: A worldly person breaks peace, while a wise person makes peace.
1. A worldly person breaks peace. Look at verse 14: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” In our age of texting acronyms like IDK, LY, and TTYL, I came across one I had not seen before: WIIFM - “What’s in it for me?” Worldly wisdom is corrosive when everything is about me, myself and I. To have “bitter jealousy” is to want what someone else has so much we end up harboring bitterness. Selfish “ambition” is all about getting ahead.
We’re given the source of this kind of jealousy and selfishness in verse 15: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” This triad of enemies is also called the world, the flesh and the devil in Ephesians 2:1-3.
• Earthly. For a lot of people, wisdom is measured in worldly terms, without any recognition of God.
• Unspiritual. In Greek this means, “animal-like” and speaks of survival. It has the idea of being controlled by emotions or “what feels right.”
• Demonic. This is strong wording meaning, “demon-like” and is very similar to what James said in 3:6: “the tongue is…set on fire by hell.”
We’re surrounded by earthly, unspiritual and demonic influences. We live in a whacked-out world, don’t we?
This week I came across a post on NPR with this headline: “To Stave Off Decline, Churches Attract New Members With Beer.” Another article had this title: “Churches Serving Beer to Lure People.” Someone took a picture of a sign outside a church that reads, “Beer and Hymns tonight @ 6:00. Free food and beer! Kids welcome! Family friendly.” Are you kidding me?