Summary: In order to know if you are truly wise or otherwise, you must first know what true wisdom is. In today’s lesson, James teaches two important truths about the nature of true wisdom.
Warren Buffett is one of the greatest investors in our day. He is also the second richest man in the world, with an estimated worth of $44 billion. Buffett is so famous that a special edition of the Monopoly board game features him and his companies. A couple of months ago, in June 2005, Buffett decided to help raise money for his charitable foundation by offering an online auction on eBay for someone to have lunch with him. The winning bid was $351,100—the price of access to the world’s second richest man.
Do we recognize the value of the wisdom of God’s word, and our access to the eternal God in prayer and worship?
In our text today, James helps us to understand the value of the wisdom. So, with that in mind, let’s read James 3:13-16:
"13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:13-16)
Carl Sandburg, the American poet, wrote a massive volume on President Abraham Lincoln and the war years. The 68th chapter has an interesting title borrowed from a woodsman’s proverb. Its title is, “A Tree is Best Measured when It’s Down.” You see, you cannot accurately measure the height of a tree until it is cut down. The point Sandburg was making was that only after the death of Lincoln could people truly assess the value and impact of his life.
But Lincoln’s many achievements were not as impressive as those of another man I want you to think about today. During this man’s life he was an author, diplomat, poet, writer of songs, a king, a theologian, a philosopher, a philanthropist, a financier, an architect, an engineer, a man of royal blood, a man with intense creative ability, and the builder of one of the seven wonders of the world. He reached the pinnacle of incredible achievements. The zenith of his life is almost without parallel. Who was this man?
His name was Solomon!
The question I want to put to you is this: why was Solomon able to do so much in his life?
The answer is given to us by God in 2 Chronicles 1. There we are told that one night, just after Solomon began his reign as king, God appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (2 Chronicles 1:7).
Try to imagine that! If God said that you could have anything in the world, what would be your request? Remember, God is the one asking, so there are no limitations. You ask for it—and it is yours. No restrictions. What would it be? Financial independence, so you could be free from worry about bills? Perfect health, so you could have a long life? A position of great honor and prominence? A new car?
Let’s listen in on Solomon’s response: “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people. . .” (2 Chronicles 1:8-10).
Solomon could have asked for anything! But what did he ask for? Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge.
What was God’s response? Let’s hear God’s response.
God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you” (2 Chronicles 1:11-12).
It seemed like from that point on in his life almost everything Solomon touched relationally turned to gold. He was able to accomplish amazing feats like no other man because of his unique ability to relate to people with true wisdom and knowledge.
Truly wise people are a scarce commodity these days. They are hard to find in any generation. And so in verse 13 James asks the pointed question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” This is a rhetorical question that is meant to be seen as a call for you to stop and examine your life and ask if your life is reflecting true wisdom.