James 3 – Wisdom from Above
[In the teaching of James you see this pattern where he teaches the right behavior and then he explains why it is right.
- We rejoice in enduring trials because they produce patience
- We should be doers of the word and not hearers only because the doers are blessed of God, while those that only hear have a religion that is useless.
- We should not show partiality in the gospel because faith belongs to God and he extends it to us in love by grace, not because we deserved it; and impartiality is required to truly love your neighbor as yourself.
- We demonstrate faith by works, because non-working faith is an illusion that does not benefit anyone. Activity is evidence of life, faith without works is dead.
- We control the tongue because what we speak is evidence of what is in our heart, and hasty harsh word leads to more anger and ultimately violence.
So James continues to follow this pattern while teaching about Wisdom.]
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
[Some confuse knowledge with wisdom. You see folks who acquire lots a facts and information in an attempt to make themselves wise but it does not work. Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. It is the correct application of knowledge, this "good conduct" that is the evidence of wisdom. Now this word "meekness" might seem a bit out of context when talking about wisdom, but that is a clue for us to remember as we study.]
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
[One of the examples of people seeking wisdom in the Bible is in Genesis 3 where we see Satan in the form of a serpent tempting Eve. The serpent said the forbidden fruit was desirable because "in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God", Eve considers Satan's words and decides it was "a tree desirable to make one wise", and makes a choice that yields knowledge, in this case the knowledge of evil, but it did not produce wisdom. Once you know about evil the only wise response it to stay away from it, but instead in their shame, Adam and Eve tried to stay away from God. Her pursuit of knowledge was self seeking, and verse 15 says that kind of wisdom "does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic". I think we can all agree with that assessment of what Adam and Eve obtained that day; Her self seeking led to confusion, and evil.]
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield or reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (meaning sincere).
[Did you notice how these attributes of Godly wisdom are similar to the fruit of the spirit?
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness (pure), faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control (reasonable). Against such there is no law.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
[So wisdom that is not sought out of envy and self seeking , will give evidence of these attributes, this "fruit of righteousness". So we look for the "good conduct" of verse 13, the integrity of verse 17, and above all peace or contentment.
1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
I think godly wisdom that produced good conduct, integrity, and contentment would be far more desirable than the wisdom that Eve was seeking in the garden. By contrast is should be easy to distinguish between earthly wisdom, and godly wisdom. They are sought in different ways, for different reasons, and the yield different outcomes.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
This is exactly what God said would happen if Adam and Eve were to go outside the law seeking knowledge "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The fall of man was the result man doing it our way, instead of God's way.
Proverbs tells us over and over how desirable wisdom, so there must be a Godly way to seek it.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Remember the clue I told you about from verse 13? Meekness now makes sense in this context, because it will take meekness to come humbly before God and ask for wisdom, for the right reasons.
2 Chronicles 1:5 Now the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the LORD; Solomon and the assembly sought Him there. 6 And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.
7 On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, "Ask! What shall I give you?"
8 And Solomon said to God: "You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?"
11 Then God said to Solomon: "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like."
So Solomon came humbly to the alter (with a thousand sacrifices) seeking God and asked for wisdom so he could serve God's people as King and Judge, and his request honored God, and was granted to him. For thousands of years since, Solomon has been synonymous with wisdom, because he sought it the right way, for the right reason.]