A young man became the president of a bank and he went to a longtime bank president for some advice. He said, “You have been a successful bank president for quite some time and I obviously don’t have the qualifications you do. Could you tell me the secret of your success? He said, “Young man, two words, good decisions.” The young president replied, “Thank you very much, but how does one come to know which is a good decision?” “One word, young man, experience.” “But how does one get experience?” “Two words, young man: bad decisions.”
It’s generally thought that in order to have wisdom, you must have a few gray hairs. Is it true that the older, experienced bank president will make less mistakes than the new, young bank president. But you see there are two totally different wisdoms being talked about in our text.
I once preached a sermon in Montana on a text in Proverbs which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We had a visitor that day approach me after the worship serve who said, “I have to disagree with you. A person doesn’t have wisdom until he has a lot of these, and he pointed to his gray hair.” I tried to explain that the Bible makes us wise to salvation and that because of faith in Jesus Christians were the wisest people on earth. He didn’t buy it. You can’t explain to a fifty year old unbeliever that a little child might have more wisdom and expect him to like it.
Bad decisions are the key to experience. Experience is the key to success. Right? Are we on the same page? Good. Now forget it. Let’s forget about this worldly wisdom and talk about the wisdom that comes from above. Two types of wisdom are talked about in our text. James encourages us to Seek Heavenly Wisdom.
There is a wisdom that is not spiritual. A wisdom that is not god-pleasing. “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.” James calls this worldly wisdom, and it is from Satan. “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts…” Do you see that wisdom is more than just knowing what to do and what not to do. Harboring envy: “I wish I was really like so and so.” “I really wish I had so and so’s money, material possessions.” Selfish ambition: It’s all about you. What can your family do for you? How good can I look in the eyes of others? How good is this going to make me feel? This wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.”
So, the devil produces displeasure and anger against the success of others (envy) and the very opposite of true love (which is selfish ambition) and we wonder why marriages fail, or struggle. Or why wars are fought. Why there is terrorism. We wonder why we struggle in the workplace with co-workers. “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
So, take away love and what do you have? “Disorder and every evil practice.” Exchange godly wisdom for worldly wisdom and what do you have? “Disorder and every evil practice.” Try to take God out of the picture and what happens to society?
So, when you children would rather have disorder than the order your parents set down, this is of the devil. When you husbands manage your family with mostly you in mind, this is of the devil. When you wish you could be like someone else, or have what someone else has, this is of the devil. And all this stuff leads to destruction with the evil one in hell.
James talks about two types of wisdom. Here’s the other: “But the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure: then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
Do you know what this wisdom is? Put all this together and what do you have? Or who do you have? Jesus!! Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Jesus is our wisdom from God.
Jesus is pure. There is no sin in purity. And purity’s effect on man is a holy effect. Jesus is pure; his cause is pure. And his cause was to work so the Father could declare us pure in his sight.
Jesus is peace-loving. Sin separated us from God. Jesus died and rose again to establish peace between God and man. The Bible calls him the “Prince of Peace.”
Jesus is considerate. Or in other words he was yielding to inferiors. He didn’t insist strictly on his rights as the Son of God. No, Paul says Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be held on to at all costs.” And so he assumed our human nature and he passively obeyed as the leaders abused him and carried out his death sentence.
Jesus was submissive. As the above word, considerate, is used in relation to those who are inferior, submissive is used in relation to those who are superior. Who is superior to Christ? No one! And yet, in humility he obeyed his heavenly Father who said, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well-pleased.”
Full of mercy. Mercy is pity on someone in his helpless condition. We couldn’t live perfectly under God’s commands. So Jesus came. We couldn’t die to take away sin. Jesus mercifully came to pay for all the world’s sins.
Full of good works. Benefitial works. Its benefitial to allow someone to walk that cannot walk. Its benefitial to allow someone to see who cannot see. And Jesus did all kinds of miracles. Well, how about washing us clean of our sin in his blood!? There is nothing more benefitial than being forgiven and taken into God’s family and becoming an heir of eternal life.
Impartial and sincere. God doesn’t judge one way one day and then change his mind. God’s judgments are always the same. God doesn’t ever act like the hypocrite, saying one thing but then meaning another. His words are never hollow. He doesn’t make a promise and then say, “You know, I can’t actually fulfill that promise.” How are these for judgments? “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “I am with you always to the very end of the age.” “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Jesus Christ is wisdom from heaven. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The Holy Scriptures “make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” I am looking at some of the wisest people in all the world, thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
You ever heard the old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” A child very often takes on the characteristics of his parents. You are adopted sons of God and your brother is Jesus Christ. “…the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure: then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” So, you are to pursue purity, peace, consideration, submission to others, mercy, good works and we are impartial and sincere. So, as the Father, so is the Son. So are the adopted sons of God.
All of life is sowing and harvesting. The farmer sows in the spring and harvests in the fall. The unbeliever sows his wicked oats and reaps a harvest of destruction on judgment day. But for the believer, Paul says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” He also says in Galatians 6:8, “…the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” And then he says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” What does this wisdom make your family life look like? What does this wisdom do for our congregation at Crown of Life?
Heavenly wisdom does not come with age necessarily. Heavenly wisdom is not mere head knowledge which comes from experience, which is a result of making lots of mistakes. Wisdom is the ability to take the knowledge of God’s will and make practical use of it in life. Wisdom is not mere head knowledge, but heart knowledge. A wise person understands Biblical truth and applies Biblical truth to his life. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
A few weeks ago, our Old Testament lesson from Proverbs 8 said, “Let all who are simple come in here!” Here is here: God’s Word. “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still.” With the Holy Spirit as your teacher, how wise we can become! Amen.