Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wisdom From Above

James 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James begins this section of his letter with a simple question. “Who among you is wise and understanding?” This seems like a simple enough question, in fact from the whole of this letter I think that we can even decipher how James’ original readers would have responded. In 1:19 we see that the Jews to whom James wrote had a problem with speaking to quickly. In other words, they were so sure that they had the right answer that they had to be the first person to speak. In 1:23-24 the recipients of this letter acted as if they were above the word of God by ignoring what it clearly taught. In 2:4 we see that they made themselves out to be judges, but their motives were evil. They considered themselves wise enough to judge a person by their clothing, or by how much money they had. These are just a few examples of how the recipients of James’ letter viewed themselves. Based on what James has written up to this point I think that we can say, quite confidently, that these people would have wholeheartedly claimed to be wise. At this point we might shake our heads in disapproval of these “wise fools” (which by the way is what sophomore means), but aren’t we guilty of the same things. How many of you have been so convinced of your own wisdom that you had to be the first one to talk? Or, how many of you have been ignoring what Scripture says about purity because you want to keep watching a TV show, or go to a certain movie, or listen to a particular band? How many times have you made yourself a judge of another person based on their appearance?
Maybe you said no to all of these sins that James’ readers fell prey to. If so, let me try to hit a little closer to home. How many of you have been so convinced of your wisdom and expertise- this is the meaning of the word translated understanding- that you just knew your parents/spouse/boss/elders/etc. were wrong and you were right? Let me ask you this, did you correct your parents/spouse/boss/elders/etc. as a favor to them, so that they would no longer be in the dark?
My point is not to make everyone reading this blog out to be the worst imaginable sinner possible. Although we are all closer to that than any of us would like to admit. My point is to show you that deep down we all have a terrible tendency to view ourselves as wiser than we are. Unfortunately, more often than not our wisdom is faulty and will only lead us into trouble. The question that we must ask, and that James answers, is how do we test our wisdom to determine if it is true wisdom?


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