Want to Be Wise?

James 3:13-18 – (The Message) – Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats. Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

  • For those who do not care about true wisdom but only want the status of being thought wise, the question is a challenge; James’s answer will expose them for what they are.
  • For those who honestly aspire to being wise, the question is an invitation; James’s answer will divulge the way to attain their aspirations.

James is saying, “I am about to tell you the nature of true wisdom; treasure this.” Let all readers, then, first examine their own hearts before reading beyond the question posed in 3:13. Do you really want to be wise?

Literally James says, “Let him show by good behavior his deeds in the humility of wisdom.” Wisdom, then, is not something I will merely possess in my head; if I am wise at all, it is something I will demonstrate in my conduct. 

Two kinds of wisdom:

  • earthly, unspiritual, demonic – comes from jealousy and selfish ambition
  • pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

What causes fights/quarrels?

The conclusion for us is that our fights reveal a wrong relationship with God which is manifest in our prayer lives. Either we do not pray, because we do not trust in God’s grace, or we pray with wrong motives, because we do not follow God’s purity.

James 4:4-6 – You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

These are difficult verses to understand.

Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

Proverbs 3:34 – He mocks proud mockers  but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

The reference in 4:6 is more specific and definite, quoting Proverbs 3:34 about God’s personal stance in regard to the choice before us. He is neither passive nor indifferent but quite active in opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble.

James 4:7-12 – So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him make himself scarce. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

  • Submit to God – resist the devil
  • God will come near – devil will flee
  • What do you think of his telling us to mourn?  How would that go over in today’s church?

3 relationships:

  • First mentioned is the relationship with each other. Our bonds with others in God’s family are violated when we receive mercy from God but do not share it with others.  When we judge others we are showing contempt for God’s mercy to us.
  •  Second is the relationship with the law. James insists that we are to be doers under the law, which is contradicted when we try to be judges over the law.  When we accept God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, we place ourselves under the teachings of Jesus which commands we show mercy.  When we judge others rather than show mercy, we are rejecting Christ’s teachings.
  • The third relationship is with God.  In judging people, what we really want is to take God’s place. Our sins of judging are attempts to set ourselves not only over the law but over the Lawgiver as well.

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