Summary: In today's passage James highlights the difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
INTRODUCTION: 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.” There’s a difference between being smart and being wise. I can have an abundance of knowledge but have not wisdom. “A lot of book smarts but no common sense”. In Today’s passage, James highlights the difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
1) True wisdom shows itself (Vs. 13): “Who is wise? Let him show it by good deeds”. The evidence for wisdom, like faith, is seen not just in what I know, but in what I do. True wisdom is not just intellectual; it’s behavioral. Heavenly wisdom always brings forth fruit when it is applied. Regarding the bible, I can have an abundance of bible knowledge but it only translates to wisdom when I apply it. Spurgeon said, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.” Adam Clarke’s commentary reads, “We may learn from this that genuine wisdom is ever accompanied with meekness and gentleness. Those proud, overbearing, and disdainful men, who pass for great scholars and eminent critics, may have learning, but they have not wisdom.” Humility-‘On one occasion Abraham Lincoln, to please a certain politician, issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When Sec. of War Edwin Stanton received the order, he refused to carry it out, saying the President was a fool. When Lincoln was told of this, he replied, “If Stanton said I’m a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it.’ Lincoln proved his wisdom by his humble actions. Wisdom is an action word.
2) False wisdom is selfish (Vs. 14). Just as James said that blessing and cursing don’t mix; neither does bitterness and envy mix with wisdom. If you think yourself to be wise yet you are envious or are harboring bitterness towards others you are deceived. Boasting about this “wisdom” that you claim to have is not good, but evil. Being prideful in this “wisdom” is keeping you in denial about the truth. Prov. 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Too many people think they are wise but because of their stubborn refusal to listen to wise counsel they continue to go their own way, denying the truth and end up dead. The zeal of knowledge (worldly wisdom) is pursued in bitterness and selfish ambition and with boasting about attainments achieved through that knowledge. 1st Cor. 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” Wisdom does not seek to profit itself but others. It isn’t sought through whatever means possible regardless of who is hurt in the process. Wisdom can debate and discuss without it turning into a screaming match. Worldly wisdom is willing to accomplish itself through unethical means. Worldly wisdom is determined to establish itself by force and will not tolerate an opposite viewpoint. Worldly wisdom is not open to input and correction. Barclay’s commentary, “It regards his opponents as enemies to be annihilated rather than as friends to be persuaded. In its selfish ambitions, its focus is to display self rather than to display truth and is interested more in the victory of its own opinion than in the victory of the truth. In its arrogance, worldly wisdom’s attitude is pride in its knowledge rather than humility in its ignorance. The real scholar will be far more aware of what he does not know then of what he does know.” One might be led to think that envy and selfish ambition could be good things (boasting). Why? They show passion, a desire for something better. ‘This guy is focused; he knows what he wants and is going after it; what a great quality. This person is going places; he’s going to be a great success’. Not that it’s wrong to be focused and determined and opportunistic but when envy and selfish ambition are the driving forces behind it then it’s not divine wisdom. Since worldly wisdom is selfish it will deal with people according to what they can get from them. Worldly wisdom is manipulative deceptive and coercive. It seeks dishonest gain. There are many criminals who are very smart at what they do. They might be intelligent but they aren’t wise.