Ask a room full of Christians who the wisest man on earth is, and many would probably answer Solomon. Anyone who reads their Bible knows of Solomon and his great wisdom.
Ask a room full of Christians who the wisest person on earth is today, and many would probably associate wisdom today with Worldly Wisdom. Yoda from Star Wars, the Dalai Lama, or perhaps an elderly statesman are often seen as pictures of wisdom. Yet, in many cases, we are associating mere age and spiritual insight with the word wisdom.
In reality, true wisdom is hard for us to spot on our own. The Bible tells us that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27), and by this Paul is essentially placing the word “wise” in quotes meaning that true wisdom from above (from God) will look foolish to the so-called wise, unregenerate man.
This week’s text focuses on the solution to a problem James first identified in Chapter 3:1-12–the destructive power of the untamed tongue. He identifies the problem (the tongue), and then he points to the solution. “Who among you is wise?” he asks in a rhetorical question. Then he gives us what to look for as we examine those in our circle of acquaintances–”you will know him by his good conduct and by the gentleness of his works” (v. 13).
You see, the tongue is indeed “a world of unrighteousness” within our bodies, and the way to tame the tongue is not through will power or self determination, a controlled tongue is further evidence of true faith.
Staying with a theme he has employed from the beginning, James forces us to examine ourselves to see whether or not we show the unavoidable signs of true faith or counterfeit faith. Godly wisdom accompanies true faith; worldly wisdom is evidence of counterfeit faith.
Not wanting us to miss the point, James provides a list of obvious character traits that result from Godly Wisdom and from Worldly Wisdom. A person with Godly Wisdom will display eight character traits: purity, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. A person with Worldly Wisdom will display two character traits: bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
As we learned last week, an uncontrolled tongue is the external evidence of a corrupted heart; a controlled tongue is the external evidence of a born again, Spirit-filled heart.
How do we gain Godly Wisdom? This is a good question. In many ways, one of the stereotypes of wisdom is correct–age does play a factor. Godly wisdom is the fruit of a life committed to Jesus Christ. It is part and parcel of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our life. Read the character attributes of Godly Wisdom in James 3:17 and compare those with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23–But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control.
Godly Wisdom is not a once-and-done kind of thing. It is a lifelong pursuit, following hard after the voice of the Holy Spirit as He calls us into deeper and deeper obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is being willing to let go of our man-made sense of knowledge and intelligence and exchange it for what our friends, family, and coworkers will think is complete foolishness. It is not a religious experience or spiritual high; it fixing our eyes on the Cross and dying to selves.
James ends this passage on wisdom with an appropriate word picture: wisdom from above leads to a “harvest of righteousness sown in peace by those who make peace” (v. 18). Living in central Iowa, we are surrounded by fertile farmland. We know instinctively that the harvest in Autumn doesn’t happen automatically. In early spring farmers will begin tilling the ground and planting the seed; they will fertilize and watch for weeds and bugs; they will pray for the right combination of rain and sunshine that will cause the plants to grow. In the Autumn, if the Lord blesses, they will harvest a crop.
So, too, is the life of faith that exhibits Godly Wisdom–the seeds of righteousness are sown in peace and nurtured throughout one’s life by the Spirit of God Himself, so that in that day, our Lord will reap a harvest of righteousness from our time on this earth. May He receive all glory, honor, and praise!–Chris Eller
This Week’s Core Virtue
Peace (Philippians 4:6-7): I am free from anxiety because things are right between God, myself and others.
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