There are a lot of voices talking, talking, talking, on social media, tv, at work, at home, and in the newspaper. Just on Facebook alone there are hundreds of people who desire the privilege of speaking into your life. How do you know who to give your time and attention? Who can you believe?
In our study of James this week we get a litmus test for true wisdom. It is no surprise that he does not allow an examination of others but makes us examine ourselves. You see, our first concern should not be who do we listen to or who we should follow, but if we ourselves are wise. Our very lives (physical and spiritual) may depend on it.
There is a huge difference between earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. James 3:13-18 is a detailed explanation of the difference between the two. He begins with a question, then a request, then a contrast between earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom.
Join me and do a self-examination as we study. The questions we should ask ourselves are underlined.
THE QUESTION: Who is wise and understanding among you? (James 3:13a). James is not asking who has degrees, speaks well, or has a large following. Stop now and answer this question. Question # 1: Do you consider yourself wise?
THE REQUEST: Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13b). This wisdom is defined as, “the application of heavenly knowledge to earthly living” (Tony Evans). Question #2: Can you remember a life example where you sought God’s wisdom for direction instead of acting out of impulse?
In James 3:14-16, James describes earthly wisdom as follows:
14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Before we act or speak, we should slow down enough to ask ourselves if what we are about to do or say pleases God and blesses those around us. James says if the motivation for what you say or do comes from the dark pit of envy and selfish ambition, don’t brag about it or think it is cute because, these acts are:
- Earthly – view everything through the lens of worldly popular thought rather than seeking a Biblical or heavenly truth on the topic. Example: Many pastors and teachers only teach/preach topics of affirmation because it excites the listeners and they get a bigger offering. Wise pastor/teachers teach the whole Bible, even the parts that are unpopular, and the people become spiritually mature and God gives the reward.
- Unspiritual – using human reason only. Have you heard it said, “God gave you five senses, so use them.”? That is true, but Christians walk by faith, not by sight, we must rely on the truth of the Word, and we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.
- Demonic – if your words or deeds are designed to deceive, put someone in their place, sow discord, or display your intelligence over everyone else, then your motives are devil inspired.
Question #3: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most of the time, how often are your words or deeds earthly, unspiritual or demonic?
James 3:17-18 reads, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
How we speak and how we live should demonstrate we have heavenly wisdom. Our words and deeds should be: 1. Pure – clear of ulterior motives, 2. peace loving – right relationship between individual and God., 3. Considerate – willing to think about the welfare others, 4. Submission – willing to learn from others, 5. Full of mercy and good fruit – willing to forgive, soften justice, remembering you are not perfect, 6. Good fruit that is impartial and sincere – living to be a blessing without hypocrisy.
Question #4: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most of the time, how often are your words and deeds pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, good fruit, impartial, and sincere.”
I will answer the questions first:
- I do considerate myself wise, but there is always room for improvement. I rate myself 8 out of 10.
- I remember teaching a group of pastors from a denomination that did not believe in women teaching men. I taught without trying to justify myself for being the teacher or impressing them with my wealth knowledge on the subject. They seemed receptive. I rate myself 8 out of 10.
- I have been ministering for over thirty years and have grown a lot over the years. In the past, I have preached my feelings (anger, hurt, disappointment), but not so much anymore. I try to live what I preach. I would rate myself a 2 out of 10 because there is room for improvement.
- Often my morning prayer is: “Heavenly Father, I want to be pleasing in your sight. Guide my words and deeds by your Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” Then I live the best I can. I rate myself 8 to 10 because there is always room for improvement.
#Join the conversation. Even if you do not want to share your answers, please let me know if this lesson was helpful and why. Thanks.