Monday, October 09, 2006

You Better Wise Up

I’ve got good news…you have wisdom! I’ve also got bad news…it may not be the type of wisdom you need. In James 3:13-18, the New Testament writer begins with the inquiry, ‘Who among you is wise and understanding?’ The word ‘wise’ describes a careful application of knowledge. But he also asks, ‘Who is understanding?’ The word ‘understanding’ speaks of a specialized knowledge such as a skilled craftsman. So, how can you tell? How do you know if someone is skilled in applying Biblical knowledge?

James, says, ‘Let him show it through good behavior and deeds.’ Being wise and understanding is not intellectual, it’s practical. It is seen in an outward display and it is done in an attitude of ‘gentleness.’ This is the idea of tenderness or graciousness. It speaks of power under control. For example, it is used to describe a wild horse, who when broken, becomes a gentle animal. It also speaks of the wind. In the form of a hurricane or tornado, it has great power, but it can also be a breath of fresh air in the form of a cool breeze on a hot day. This word is used by Jesus to describe Himself in Mathew 11:29 and is also named as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

But there is a wisdom that does not live this way. James speaks of the motive for unwise living. James describes it first of all as bitter jealousy. This describes a jealousy that is pointed or sharp like bitter water coming out of a fountain (3:11). Another motive is selfish ambition. This is one Greek word meaning strife, contentiousness or extreme selfishness. This is a motive that only focuses on personal gain and getting ahead as an individual. A final motive for a lack of power under control is arrogance or boastfulness. This kind of living is a contradiction to the Gospel

We must understand that we all show wisdom, but it isn’t always good wisdom. Human wisdom is not always favorable. In verse 15, James says that human wisdom is earthly meaning that it is of the world and has no eternal value. This type of wisdom is not from above, it doesn’t come from God. Human wisdom is also natural, which is opposite of being regenerated. This wisdom relates to that which is fallen and depraved. Human wisdom is also demonic. The root of such character is Satan himself working through his fallen angels. Human wisdom produces disorder (v16) which speaks of instability and confusion. It also produces what James calls ‘every evil thing,’ which is the broadest category of bad results. Nothing of any ultimate good results from human wisdom.

How does this compare with heavenly wisdom that produces good deeds in a spirit of gentleness (v17-18)? James says that heavenly wisdom is free of contamination. Heavenly wisdom does not perpetrate conflict through selfishness. Heavenly wisdom is patient even to the point of mistreatment in order to be forbearing and courteous. Heavenly wisdom is teachable. Heavenly wisdom reaches out to those in need. Heavenly wisdom demonstrates authentic faith through good works. Heavenly wisdom does not vacillate or doubt. Finally, heavenly wisdom never pretends to be what it really is not. Heavenly wisdom is power under control. So, what do you say…let’s wise up!

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