Summary: In James chapter 3, James contrasts two kinds of wisdom: worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. The fruits that result from these two kinds of wisdom couldn't be any more different from each other.
A. Let’s start our sermon this morning with a quote: “Life is hard and it’s harder when you’re stupid.”
1. We chuckle at that because we all know it’s true.
2. Some people attribute that quote to John Wayne.
3. I don’t know if the Duke did or didn’t say those words.
4. The line doesn’t appear in any of his movies, but it sounds like something he would have said.
5. I think a better and more impactful word than “stupid” to use in that sentence is “foolish.”
6. “Life is hard and it’s harder when you’re foolish.”
B. Now let’s flip that statement around and state it in a positive way: “Life is hard, but it’s easier when you have God’s wisdom.”
1. That’s even better, isn’t it? Yet it’s just as true as the first statement.
2. One of the problems we face is that we don’t always know how to get the wisdom we need.
3. But that’s where the little book of James comes in handy.
4. You will remember that back in chapter one, James offered this wonderful promise: Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
5. I like the way that verse is rendered in the New Living Translation: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT)
a. I love that phrase: “Ask our generous God and He will give it to you.”
b. That’s good news for all of us. If we need wisdom, we can ask for it!
c. Sometimes, the hardest part is admitting we need God’s help.
d. God is ready to supply the wisdom that we need, but He waits for us to ask for it.
6. So, “Life is hard, but it’s easier when you have God’s wisdom.”
C. Let’s do a little imaginary exercise.
1. What would you do if I were to ask all the wise people in the congregation to stand up?
2. Would you stand up, or would you remain seated?
3. Would you feel a little nervous and wonder if it is a trick question or a set up?
4. Do you feel that it would be presumptuous if you stood up and claim to be wise?
5. After all, who can be sure about something like that, right?
D. It’s uncomfortable to think about something like this, but isn’t that really what James asks here in James chapter 3, verse 13: Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.
1. In the end, wisdom cannot be hidden, but it will show itself one way or the other.
2. A foolish person may keep silent, and for a little while others will think he or she is wise.
3. But eventually the foolish person must speak and act, and the truth will come out and the same is true for those who are wise.
E. I borrowed the title for this sermon “The Wise, the Unwise, and the Otherwise” from a chapter in a book by Charles Swindoll on James.
1. Through this catchy title for the chapter on this section of James, Charles Swindoll illuminates James’ contrast between God’s wisdom and the wisdom of the world.
2. How does a person behave who is being guided by God’s wisdom?
3. James offers two tests: good conduct and gentle deeds.
F. The first test is good conduct.
1. James chose a very important word to describe a life guided by God’s wisdom.
2. Some translations talk about “good behavior,” which is fine, but doesn’t quite get to the point.
3. One translation calls it “noble conduct,” which gets a little closer.
4. James used an adjective that means “beautiful” and it describes something pleasing to the eye.
5. When applied to people it means “beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life.”
6. As God’s people, who want to represent God in the best possible light, we need to keep in mind that unbelievers are watching us all the time.
7. Our beautiful life (our good conduct) will cause them to want to know more about God.
8. Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, offered a wonderful definition of a saint – “A saint is a person who makes it easy to believe in Jesus.”
9. Isn’t that good?! It is a worthy goal for all of us, wouldn’t you agree?
10. All of us are either drawing people to Jesus or pushing them further away by our conduct.
11. And our good conduct and beautiful life reveal that we have God’s wisdom.