Choosing Wisdom in Relationships
MBC, October 6, 2013
Who do you consider to be the wisest person you know?
We all have different ways of approaching relationships. We’re influenced by many factors, including our personality and past experiences.
HOW DOES GOD WANT US TO RELATE TO OTHERS? With wisdom – His.
READ James 3:13-18
A successful sports team must develop a “game plan” in order to win. A game plan takes into account the other team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own. Coaches work diligently to develop offensive plays and defensive alignments that will give their team the greatest chance for success against the team they are playing. For the past two weeks, we have been talking about developing a game plan AGAINST the devil and his plans. Today, let’s consider a game plan FOR God.
Each of us has a game plan when it comes to relationships in our lives. According to James, there are two possible plans we can choose from. WHAT ARE THEY? Using earthly wisdom and godly wisdom. All decisions we make will be made from one of these plans. Decisions are critical because of the vast number of personalities we come into contact with every day. Many of the problems we have are related to personality conflicts and strained relationships because of those conflicts. It could be a family member, a neighbor, or a coworker.
How many of you are familiar with the story of Wily Fox and Brer Rabbit? “The fox made a doll out of tar and stuck it on the side of the road. When Rabbit saw the tar baby, he thought it was a person and stopped to visit. It was a one-sided conversation. The tar baby’s silence bothered the rabbit. He couldn’t stand to be next to someone and not communicate with them. So in his frustration, he hit the tar baby and stuck to it. He hit the tar baby again with the other hand and, you guessed it, the other hand got stuck.”
That is how it is with many of our relationships – we get stuck with someone we can’t communicate with.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THIS HAPPENS? We have a choice. We can approach our relationships with wisdom from the world or with wisdom from God. Let’s use James’ words to help us make the right choice.
Every day we plant seeds in our relationships. These seeds can be good or bad. How often do we sow words of discouragement, anger or criticism and expect to reap good relationships in return? We need to understand the principle of sowing and reaping.
READ Galatians 6:7-8
James tells us in verse 18 that the wise person sows words, behaviors and attitudes that promote peaceful relationships. We do this by focusing on godly wisdom instead of earthly wisdom.
So what is wisdom? James says in verse 13 that wisdom is not knowledge or intelligence. Wisdom, is a lifestyle and is evidenced by the way we live. It is especially evident in the character we display in our relationships and the manner in which we get along with others.
James differentiates the two kinds of wisdom in verse 16. He calls the wisdom that causes untold problems in relationships worldly or earthly wisdom. He might tell us to look at our relationships to determine which wisdom is being used.
In contrast, the other kind is godly wisdom. James shows us six characteristics of this kind of wisdom starting in verse 17.
1. Purity or Integrity – the word pure means uncorrupted or authentic. If we are wise, we will not try to manipulate others, lie to others, practice deceitfulness, cheat others, or use people for selfish gain. Instead, we build our relationships on trust and honesty.
READ Psalm 119:9
At a national spelling contest in Washington an incident occurred that made me feel good–and made me wonder. In the fourth round of the contest, Rosalie Elliot, then an eleven-year-old from South Carolina, was asked to spell avowal. In her soft Southern accent she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an a or an e as the next to last letter? The judges couldn’t decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent-blurred. Chief Judge John Lloyd finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer, “Was the letter an a or was it an e? he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. Without hesitating, she replied she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage.
The entire audience stood and applauded, including half a hundred newspaper reporters, one of whom was heard to remark that Judge Lloyd had put quite a burden on an eleven-year-old. Rosalie rated a hand and it must have been a heartwarming and proud moment for her parents. The thing that makes me wonder, however, was the apparent feeling on the part of so many that the issue might have been in doubt and that honesty might have bowed to temptation. Have we in this age stopped taking honesty for granted, even from our children?
2. Being peace-loving – We are not to be bent on using anger to get our way or win arguments. We all know people who always seem to be looking for a fight. These individuals are not being wise. All of us could probably think of something we have said or done in anger. We need to control our tempers, because when anger is allowed to go unchecked, we make painful mistakes.
Anger is a fire; it catches, destroys, and consumes. Let us quench it by long-suffering and forbearance. For as red hot iron dipped into water loses its fire, so an angry man falling in with a patient one does no harm to the patient man, but rather benefits him and is himself more thoroughly subdued.
READ Proverbs 14:29
3. Showing consideration – how we respond to others. James tells us to be considerate, gentle, courteous and mindful of the feelings of others. When we minimize other’s feelings, we can easily crush their spirit. Wisdom means we take the feelings of others seriously and respond with kind words.
A polite man is one who listens with interest to things he knows about when they are told to him by a person who knows nothing about them. Phillipe de Mornay (1549-1623)
Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It is the cheapest of the pleasures; costs nothing and conveys much. It pleases him who gives and him who receives, and thus, like mercy, it is twice blessed. Erastus Wiman
READ Proverbs 15:4
4. Being submissive – an openness to new ideas or the opinions of others, open to reason, or open for discussion. Can other people reason with you? Do you get defensive too easily? Are you open to advice and counsel?
In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. A wall of water crashes through the ballroom chandelier. Men in tuxes and women in evening gowns scream and run. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship flips over.
Because of the air trapped inside the ocean liner, it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can’t figure out what’s going on. They scramble to get out, mostly by climbing the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.
The only survivors are the few who do what doesn’t make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and descend into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. By going down, they reach the ocean’s surface. Rescuers hear them banging and cut them free.
In our relationships, it’s as if God has turned the ship over and the only way for us to find freedom is to choose what doesn’t make sense: lay down our lives by serving, supporting, and sacrificing for each other.
READ Proverbs 12:15
5. Being full of mercy and good fruit – how we respond to the mistakes of others. Being full of mercy means that we give others what they need, not what they deserve. We have a choice – we can RUB IT IN and hound others about their past mistakes or we can RUB IT OUT and forgive them.
On the evening of April 25, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan. Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a blackjack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead. All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The district attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy. It read in part:
“Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action–.In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released–.We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins.”
A. Leonard Griffith, Beneath the Cross of Jesus
READ Proverbs 17:9
6. Being impartial and sincere – treating everyone the same and avoiding showing favorites. We are sincere when we are honest about our weaknesses. This is difficult because we tend to put on our best face before others, especially at church. Earthly wisdom tells us to hide those ugly things in our life that others probably already know about us anyway. We’re not wise when we pretend to be perfect, because everyone else can see through our act! The wise person doesn’t try to be someone they’re not. We are at our best when we focus on being our godly selves. Wisdom is treating everyone the same and being the same person no matter who we’re with.
Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No ulterior motives. No hidden meanings. An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality. As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.
Charles R. Swindoll
READ Proverbs 11:1
Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different things. Whether you’ve gotten anything out of this message or not will depend on what you do from now on in your relationships. Remember the GIGO principle. What are you approaching your relationships with: godly wisdom or earthly wisdom?
Using the scale, answer the following questions on a 1-10 scale:
I am honest and pure in my motives.
I control my temper.
I am considerate.
I am open to reason and counsel.
I forgive the mistakes of others easily.
I am impartial and genuine with others.
Your answers will determine which wisdom you are using.
2. Seek forgiveness from those who you have hurt because you relied on earthly wisdom. You may be unaware that your behavior has hurt someone’s feeling or harmed a relationship. Is there disorder or a “wall” build up in a relationship? Refusing to forgive, being jealous or being selfish are all aspects of earthly wisdom that can destroy relationships. Go to those whom you have offended and ask for forgiveness. This requires dropping your pride and ego, too.
3. Ask God daily for wisdom in becoming a peacemaker in all your relationships.
READ James 1:5
We need God’s wisdom every day in everything we do. It is what we should pray for now.