Wisdom from James
Small Group, Mobberly Baptist Church, July 15, 2012
Hopefully, with age comes wisdom. What do you have more of – common sense or book sense?
With all the problems we face in the world, it’s good to know that at least the criminals aren’t getting any smarter. Witness these items from news reports:
• A man inJohannesburg,South Africa, shot his 49-year-old friend in the face, seriously wounding him, while the two practiced shooting beer cans off each other’s head.
• A convict broke out of jail inWashingtonD.C., then a few days later accompanied his girlfriend to her trial for robbery. At lunch, he went out for a sandwich. She needed to see him, and thus had him paged. Police officers recognized his name and arrested him as he returned to the courthouse in a car he had stolen over the lunch hour.
• When two service station attendants inIonia,Michigan, refused to hand over the cash to an intoxicated robber, the man threatened to call the police. They still refused, so the robber called the police and was arrested.
• ALos Angelesman who later said he was “tired of walking,” stole a steamroller and led police on a 5 mph chase until an officer stepped aboard and brought the vehicle to a stop.
• A man went into a hardware store inHomosassa,Florida, to apply for a job. After completing his application he then went to the section of the store that sold guns. He asked to see a couple of guns. The attendant left for a moment and the guy stole the guns. Not only was he videotaped, the police used the address on his application to go to his house and arrest him.
WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE – WORLDLY EXPERIENCE OR GODLY WISDOM? WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GODLY WISDOM?
We will talk about wisdom today.
The past couple of weeks we defined maturity as a function of how and what we say. This week we will discuss maturity from the concept of wisdom. Let’s hear what James has to say about it.
READ James 3:13-18
WHEN SOMEONE GIVES YOU ADVICE, HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHETHER IT IS GOOD OR BAD? It depends upon who gave it, if it agrees with common sense, if it is unique, if I have heard it before, if it agrees with Scripture, if my best friend likes it, other.
WHAT CHARACTERIZES THE LIFE OF A PERSON WHO HAS GODLY WISDOM?
We might think that those with the best speaking skills might have the most wisdom or understanding. Many can be swayed by slick words or clever speech, but James says wisdom is demonstrated not by what we say as much as what we do. In the same way that our faith is shown by our actions, our wisdom is shown by our deeds.
Humility (gentleness) is one demonstration James uses. Humility was not popular among James’ readers, but that didn’t stop James from stating its importance. James implies that humble people do not need to make a point of how wise they are, and do not have to defend themselves. Humility is a powerful evidence of one’s wisdom.
In an interview with the great inventor of the Telegraph, Samuel F.B. Morse, George Hervey inquired, “Professor Morse, when you were making your experiments at the university, did you ever come to a standstill, not knowing what to do next?”
“Oh, yes, more than once.” “Then what did you do?”
“I’ve never discussed this with anyone, so the public knows nothing about it. But now that you ask me, I’ll tell you frankly — I prayed for more light.”
“And did God give you the wisdom and knowledge you needed?”
“Yes, He did,” said Morse. “That’s why I never felt I deserved the honors that came to me from America and Europe because of the invention associated with my name. I had made a valuable application of the use of electrical power, but it was all through God’s help. It wasn’t because I was superior to other scientists. When the Lord wanted to bestow this gift on mankind, He had to use someone. I’m just grateful He chose to reveal it to me.” In view of these facts, it’s not surprising that the inventor’s first message over the telegraph was: “What hath God wrought!”
READ Philippians 1:9-10
WHO HAVE YOU KNOWN THAT SHOWED THESE CHARACTERISTICS IN HIS OR HER LIFE?
A fourth of the Old Testament (almost as large as the entire New Testament) was all written by one man, Moses. What a man Moses must have been! How intimate with God! What a work he did! What a benefactor to mankind! 40 years in the Palace of Pharaoh, 40 years a refugee in Midian, 40 years leader of Israel in the wilderness. Delivered a nation of some 3,000,000 from servitude; transplanted them from one land to another; organized for them a system of jurisprudence that has been a fountain source of much of the world’s civilization.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WISDOM THAT IS “EARTHLY, SENSUAL, DEMONIC” (VS. 15)?
Earthly wisdom arises out of the world. It is what WE think is right.
Instead of trusting Christ, modern-day thinkers insist on using human wisdom alone for answers to eternal questions.
The tragedy of this situation was graphically illustrated in a humorous skit performed by Karl Vallentin, a Munich comedian. Walking on a stage where everything was dark except for a small area under a street lamp, he began to look for something on the ground. He told the policeman who came on the scene that he was trying to find a key, whereupon the two continued the search. Finally the officer asked, “Are you sure you lost it here?” “Oh, no,” said Vallentin as he pointed to a corner, “It was over there, but here is where the light is!”
READ Matthew 6:22-23
READ John 3:19-21
Sensual wisdom comes out of our soul – what feels good. Demonic wisdom is under the control of evil spirits. If we are not drawing from the well of God’s Holy Wisdom, we may find ourselves drinking the non-potable water of Satan and not knowing the difference.
WHAT IS THE RESULT OF ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION?
The result is disorder and every kind of evil. James is referring to an attitude that leads to working only for what one gets out of it. “What’s in it for me?” It’s not what God will do for you – it’s what you will do for God.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE EFFECTS OF THESE IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?
John and Dave were hiking when they spotted a mountain lion staring at them. John froze in his tracks, but Dave sat down on a log, tore off his hiking boots, pulled a pair of running shoes from his backpack and hurriedly began to put them on.
“For crying out loud, you can’t outrun a mountain lion!” John hissed.
“I don’t have to,” shrugged Dave. “I just have to outrun you.”
HOW CAN YOU BE SET FREE FROM THESE EFFECTS?
We must draw from God’s well. We must bathe in His waters. We must breathe His pure oxygen.
“We cannot possibly flatter the Almighty by hurrying into his presence, flinging a song and prayer at him, and hurrying out of church back into our hassled lifestyles. God is never flattered by our sanctified exhaustion.”
– Calvin Miller in Into the Depths of God (Bethany, 2001)
We must recognize that obtaining wisdom is the ultimate priority.
READ Proverbs 1:1-7
WHAT QUALITIES IN VERSE 17 DO YOU NEED TO DEVELOP IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?
Purity – moral purity
Peace-loving – opposite of envy and ambition, producing right relationships with others
Gentle (or considerate) – being equitable, making allowances rather than insisting
Compliant (or submissive) – willingness to obey God
Full of mercy (compassion) – even to those who caused their own problems
Good fruits – demonstrations in practical ways, not just an emotional response
Without favoritism – undivided, not going back and forth like the waves of the sea
Without hypocrisy – honest and genuine
Automaker Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t find the problem. So Ford called Steinmetz who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life — but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted carmaker inquired why the bill was so high when it took so little time. Steinmetz’s reply: “For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990.” Ford paid the bill.
David Jeremiah observes that, “Obtaining wisdom and godly advice is priceless and hard to find in today’s society. There are plenty of people who want to give their opinion, but the Bible is the ultimate guidebook on wisdom.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 10/14/03)