Summary: This sermon compares false and true wisdom.

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Turn with me to James 3.

Read James 3:13-18.

James starts this passage off with a penetrating question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” A lot of people claim to be wise and understanding. He is calling for us to examine our motives and ourselves. He calls those who think they are wise and understanding to demonstrate it by their lifestyle. Last week we looked at James’ challenge to demonstrate our faith through good works. Now he is challenging us to demonstrate our wisdom and understanding by our lifestyle.

We all know people, I’m sure, that are have a lot of “fancy book learnin’” that aren’t real wise or understanding. One of my friends from high school was brilliant. He nearly had a 4.0 GPA. He went to one of the best engineering schools in the Midwest. He was a whiz when it came to physics and others sciences and math. After graduating from college, he was accepted into the PhD program in physics at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He wasted his time playing video games and wound up getting kicked out of the program. Not very wise on his part. He had a free ride to get his PhD well before he was 30 years old, and he blew it by playing video games and not doing his work. That shows a lack of wisdom on his part. He had all the book smarts, but he lacked wisdom to follow through with it.

James tells that wisdom doesn’t come from books anyway. It comes from God. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

James looks at two types of wisdom: false and true. How many of you liked true/false test. If you didn’t know the answer, you had a 50/50 shot of getting it right. When it comes to wisdom it’s not a 50/50 deal. There is only one answer that is correct, and that is true wisdom. True wisdom is what we should seek.

James first looks at…

I. FALSE wisdom.

This is not good. False wisdom is problematic. Verses 14-16 cover false wisdom. These three verses look at its nature, origin and results.


Verse 14 reveals the nature of false wisdom. False wisdom involves bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.

The word used for jealousy is the word from which we get the word zealous or zeal. What James is saying is that false wisdom produces misdirected zeal, which usually results in jealousy.

Selfish ambition means party spirit. That’s not like a “birthday party.” It has more to do with political party. We constantly hear Republicans and Democrats complain about the other party playing partisan party politics. Legislation and judicial nominations are held up as a result of partisan bickering.

What James is saying here is that that sort of misdirected zeal and party politics has no place in the life of the Christian or the Church.

When those two things are in your heart, they come out. They do not result in godly wisdom. The problem is that they cause division in the Christian community. There is no room in the Church for political parties. Political parties cause division. That’s not to say that we should all be mindless robots, but we can agree to disagree.

In politics, one of the dangers is that nothing gets done because neither side will budge on their issues. One party wants one thing and the other party wants another thing, and both are so adamant that neither gets anything.

In Church business, we discuss and contemplate. Then we decide and are unified behind that decision. We don’t criticize and back bite.

The other nature of false wisdom is boasting. When we think that we are wise, we should not brag about it. Remember Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we realize how big and mighty God is, we realize how we measure up to Him.

As I was following the news of Hurricane Isabel sweep across the Atlantic Ocean the last couple weeks, I noticed that in relation to the Atlantic Ocean, she wasn’t all that big. Now, as we were hunkered down Thursday, it seemed to be a gigantic storm. Compared to the size of the Atlantic Ocean, it wasn’t all that big. Then you realize that Atlantic Ocean is relatively small compared to the size of the Earth. The Pacific Ocean is much bigger. Then you consider that the Earth is a pinpoint in the galaxy. Then consider that our galaxy is rather small in relation to the universe. Then when you consider that God created all of it, you realize how awesome God really is.

When we think that we have it all figured out, we need to realize that God’s wisdom is infinitely bigger than little brains.

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