Summary: In these last two verses of James 3, we see what’s behind godly wisdom (v. 17a). We see what’s at the center of godly wisdom (v. 17b). And we see what follows godly wisdom (v. 18).
Two Kinds of Wisdom (Part 2)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
May 20, 2001
Introduction: “Ken Walker writes in Christian Reader that in the 1995 college football season 6-foot-2-inch, 280-pound Clay Shiver, who played center for the Florida State Seminoles, was regarded as one of the best in the nation. In fact, one magazine wanted to name him to their preseason All-American football team. But that was a problem, because the magazine was Playboy, and Clay Shiver is a dedicated Christian.”
“Shiver and the team chaplain suspected that Playboy would select him, and so he had time to prepare his response. Shiver knew well what a boon this could be for his career. Being chosen for this All-American team meant that sportswriters regarded him as the best in the nation at his position. Such publicity never hurts athletes who aspire to the pros and to multimillion dollar contracts.”
“But Shiver had higher values and priorities. When informed that Playboy had made their selection, Clay Shiver simply said, ‘No thanks.’ That’s right, he flatly turned down the honor. ‘Clay didn’t want to embarrass his mother and grandmother by appearing in the magazine or giving old high school friends an excuse to buy that issue,’ writes Walker. Shiver further explained by quoting Luke 12:48: ‘To whom much is given, of him much is required.’”
“I don’t want to let anyone down,” said Shiver, “and number one on that list is God” (Larson, p. 53).
Clay Shiver had to make an important decision. Considering how high the paydays are in pro football, even for an offensive lineman, if he tried hard enough he probably could have justified doing the interview with Playboy magazine. He could have rationalized the situation by convincing himself that he might have a chance to share his faith with millions of men and women who waste their time reading garbage like Playboy.
Shiver had to choose between two kinds of wisdom, that of the world and that from the Lord. And that’s what we’re going to continue studying today. Last week we began our look at the two kinds of wisdom found in the Bible—that which is from below and human in nature, and that which is from above and godly in nature.
We spent part of our time together last week studying what it looks like to try or test wisdom. We spent the rest of our time looking at that kind of wisdom that is not from God and how treacherous it can be. I hope we all came away from God’s Word last week intent on re-evaluating our own decision-making process and determining under what kind of wisdom we operate in our day-to-day lives. To further help us in that process, we’re going to take a look at that kind of wisdom that is truly from above, godly.
Let’s read James 3:13-18 again.
In James 3:17-18 we have a very detailed description of the better wisdom, that which is from above. In these last two verses of James 3, we see what’s behind godly wisdom (v. 17a). We see what’s at the center of godly wisdom (v. 17b). And we see what follows godly wisdom (v. 18).
What Is Godly Wisdom?
Before taking a look at James’ description of godly wisdom, I think it’s important that we make sure that not only is our definition of godly wisdom concise, but that we all understand to whom this kind of wisdom is available.
James begins verse 17 with the words, “but the wisdom from above.” “The Old Testament equated wisdom with loving God” (MacArthur, p. 176). Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The psalmist agreed. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10). While speaking about the search for wisdom, Job wrote that God said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
The word “fear” is not used in these verses in the sense of cowering under a rock. This is the kind of fear that we have talked about before, that which is healthy and reverential, directed to the one true God who is sovereign over all things and circumstances. True love for God is not simply mutual admiration.
Remember, the Scripture does not say that God loves us because we first loved Him. It’s the other way around. John wrote these words to the believers around Ephesus. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).