by Pastor Anthony Pranno
How do you know if you’re wise? How do you know if there is wisdom in your heart?
At the end of James 3, James asks and answers a rhetorical question having to do with wisdom…
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
You may have heard some of these before, but it is funny how our definition of wisdom changes as we mature. When asked to write something about “wisdom,” these kids had some interesting things to say…
Patrick (age 10) “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
Michael (14) “When your dad is mad at you and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer.
Kyle (13) “Never tell your mom her diet is not working.”
Randy (9) “Stay away from prunes.”
Lauren (9) “Felt markers are not good to use as lipstick.”
Joel (10) “Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat.”
Eileen (8) “Never try to baptize a cat.”
Think about those answers for a minute. Isn’t it interesting how none of the kids gave answers that indicated knowledge, education, degrees, jobs, or status was important in attaining wisdom? Wisdom isn’t just having the facts or the knowledge. It is applying those facts or that knowledge to real life situations. These kids nailed it! Never confuse memorized Bible verses, seminary degrees, well-placed platitudes, theology, doctrine or creeds above wisdom seen in someone’s behavior and life choices. The true follower of Jesus Christ lives wisdom.
In the next few verses, James tells us that false wisdom is sometimes hard to pin down, but eventually shows up in what it produces
If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Three characteristics or “roots” of false wisdom are described in verse 15. It is: earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. You might think that wisdom that is described as earthly, unspiritual, or of the devil is pretty easy to spot. Not so fast! Let’s look at each of these roots and try to understand why wisdom can be a slippery subject.
If you think about it, earthly wisdom is all around us. There are people with amazing personality and sense of humor… people who have great talent, skill, gifting, life experience, and passion. There are people we go to manage our money because they’re really good at it. There are mechanics we refer our friends to because they are so knowledgeable, skilled and trustworthy. There are attorneys and doctors and college professors whose wisdom seems to surpass the rest of us. Even Jesus acknowledged this! At the end of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Jesus said…
Unspiritual wisdom is the kind that fakes it. It’s not just earthly… it masks itself as spiritual. We could probably all give examples of people who have said something “spiritual-sounding,” but is really just some agenda-driven advice with selfish interests in mind.
Wisdom “of the devil” is sometimes hard to spot. Any time we put our own desires, needs, wants, and feelings ahead of God’s plan, we’re listening to wisdom that is “of the devil.” This is exactly what Satan wants us to do… to question God’s wisdom… to think that we have a better understanding of circumstances… to forcefully advance our own mission, no matter what God says about it.
False wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil. James says, “If you want to know what it looks like in a person’s life, let me show you.” Here’s the list…
- Bitter envy
- Selfish ambition
- Denial of truth
- Every evil practice
Wisdom from Heaven
In the final two verses from chapter 3, James contrasts worldly wisdom with wisdom that is from above. Just as he did when describing roots of false wisdom, James gives a list of eight characteristics or “fruits” of heavenly wisdom.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Wise choices and Wise speech reflect a heart that has been surrendered to God. If there is wisdom and love in your heart… you can’t help but to show it in your actions.
James tells us that evidence of a life filled with heavenly wisdom is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get life, a life filled with integrity, someone who is the same person on the inside as everyone else sees on the outside. Is that you? Are you for real? Are you a person of integrity, soundness, and authenticity? Does it show up in how you live your life?
If we remember back in James 1, he told us how to the get wisdom we desperately need…
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
The doorway to heavenly wisdom is before you. All you have to do is knock on the door. All you have to do is ask for it.