"Words to the Wise"
Scripture: James 3:13-18
Pastor Tom Millner
SpiritSong Worship Center
March 14, 2010
Today's scripture challenges us to put into action wisdom that is from God. As I was reading this week I ran across some wisdom statements from kids.
- Justin, age 10: "Never trust a dog to watch your food."
- David, age 14: "When your dad is mad at you and asks you, 'Do I look stupid?' don't answer him." AND "Never tell your mom her diet's not working."
- Louise, age 9: "Felt markers are not good to us as lipstick"
- Ryan, age 10: "Don't pick on your sister when she's holding a baseball bat."
- Patricia, 8: "Never try to baptize a cat."
Our Revival Services start in two days. For three weeks now we've been focusing on the imperative that if revival is to occur in this community, it begins right here in the hearts of each of us. Revival begins with a relationship – a one on one relationship with the man –Jesus – who was not conquered by the wisdom of this world, but lived, died, and overcame by the wisdom that is from heaven! That relationship, while personally gratifying and eternally satisfying is not intended to pour exclusively into the trough of self-interest. As an American society we have become so self-focused that a whole generation has been dubbed as the "me generation." There's nothing new here; it's always been around; we've just taken it to an art form! James, considered to be the brother of Jesus, reminds his readers that the deeds of the heaven bound are done in the wisdom that is in heaven found! James, if translated in today's expressions, is telling us to "walk the talk" of the Christian faith. If we were doing that I wouldn't be preaching this sermon, our tithes and offerings would be sufficient to meet the needs of this ministry, and folks would be as loving toward each other as our greeting hugs would imply. We're still hanging onto the wisdom of this world and its resulting consequences, however, and it's time we truly engage the "heavenly wisdom" that comes from time before the Lord!
Let's look more closely to the guidance that James is giving us in verses 13 – 15; "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. But 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." Those who are wise demonstrate that wisdom by acting in the humility that comes from wisdom. In other words, the wisdom that comes from God is without self pride. This doesn't mean self-effacing as in false humility, but true and genuine humbleness before God and those whom He has placed in authority. Modern thinking would rail against humility – it surely negatively impacts self-esteem, we're chastised! Folks, in the Christian realm the only esteem that is of value is that which we possess by virtue of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We who have died to self now live as one with Christ – being true heirs to the kingdom. No other esteem is needed!!! James is in some ways saying: "You got it, now live it!"
James goes on: "But 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." These are pretty strong words here. Envy occurs when we believe that someone else possesses something that we think we are lacking in or that we somehow should possess to the same degree. Psychologists would tell us that this comes from a low self-esteem. Often we over compensate for what we think we're lacking in an effort to cover up before others so they won't see our deficiency. What we wind up doing is building walls and rendering ourselves victims of our own deceit. James says basically that this is not spiritual, it's not heavenly – it's actually of the devil! Often what we blame the devil for however is the product of our own making. James says that "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." The world around us is full of examples of these consequences to behavior. The evangelist D.L. Moody once told the story of an eagle that was envious of another who could fly better and higher than he could. One day the bird saw a hunter with a bow and arrow and said to him; "I wish you would bring down that eagle up there." The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the envious eagle pulled out some feathers. The arrow was shot, but missed the soaring bird above. The first eagle pulled out more feathers for the hunter until he had lost the ability to fly. The hunter then turned around and killed the helpless bird. The one we hurt the most by envy is oneself. James gives us examples, however, of what wisdom from above looks like.
Verse 17: "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." The message translates it this way: "Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced." We don't naturally like to act this way. Of course, we'd love it if everyone else acted toward us in this way! We're called to act with pure motives – not tinged with selfish ambition. Purity then translates as peace-loving (seeking), being considerate of others, submissive to authority and to truth. Attributes humans are not noted for often! What does it mean to be full of mercy? God's love for us is full of mercy and grace. Mercy means we don't get what we truly deserve! Conventional wisdom says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, you do me wrong and I wrong you right back. Godly wisdom has no part in it since God in His love has extended mercy to all of us. Extending this mercy not only to ourselves but also to others bears fruit of the spirit – (Galatians 5) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control."
The wisdom that God is calling us to live out is the gift He gives by the mercy and grace of Christ. Revival is not an event, a place, an emotion – it begins with a person – Jesus Christ and it lives within us as we live out the character to which we've been called – Jesus!