These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Everybody needs wisdom! You need wisdom to manage your finances, raise your children, deal with conflict, respond to changes in your life, respond to tough situations, and to difficult people. No matter what you face in life, you need wisdom.
God wants to give you this wisdom and God places a high value on wisdom.
- This is so important that God’s Word says in Proverbs 4:7, “Above all and before all: do this: Get wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!” (Msg). God is telling you to make it your number one priority in life. “Above all…” above money, success, appearance, health, power, popularity, or anything else get wisdom.
- Proverbs 4:5 declares, “Sell everything and buy wisdom! Forage for Understanding! Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch!” (Msg). If it were possible to buy wisdom, God is saying that wisdom is so valuable that it’s worth selling everything you have to get it. God is serious about you growing in wisdom.
- God says in Proverbs 16:16, “Get wisdom – it’s worth more than money; choose insight over income every time” (Msg). Wisdom before wealth.
- Just to be clear, Proverbs 24:5 teaches, “It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day” (Msg).
James has already brought this subject up once before. Back in James 1:5 we are told, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you” (NLT). About a year ago, we spent five weeks looking at wisdom from that one verse. We answered five questions.
- What is wisdom?
- Why do I need wisdom?
- Where does wisdom come from?
- How do I ask God for wisdom?
- How does God give me wisdom?
That series was called WisDUMB and it is worth your time to listen to it or listen to it again. You can find it on the church’s website.
James returns to the subject of wisdom and takes us a little deeper into understanding what it is and what it is not. God really wants us to get this. In James 3:13 we are told, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (NLT). As we walk with God in faith on a day-to-day basis, we face many challenges, trials, and temptations. For this reason James addresses issues that we face every day where we need wisdom. He talks about how we treat people who are different than us, how we handle life when life is difficult, how we respond to God when He is not doing what we want Him too, and how God’s wisdom should influence what we say and how we say it. James is trying to help you mix daily wisdom with your faith in God. Today, I want us to focus our attention on verse 13 which says, If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. What does this tell us about wisdom?
Wisdom is applied truth
First, wisdom is applied truth. James begins by saying, “If you are wise….” To be wise or to have wisdom is to have the ability to perceive the true nature of a situation and to implement the will of God in that situation. Wisdom is the practical application of God’s truth to a specific situation. Wisdom is knowing what God wants you to do and then doing it.
Wisdom is spiritual insight
Second, wisdom is spiritual insight. James says, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways….” Understanding is the ability to translate meaning from the facts. It’s the ability to know the significance of the information. It is insight in how to apply God’s truth. The term “understanding” (eqistemon) speaks of a skilled person with practical knowledge.
This is significant because there are people who know what God says about some things, but don’t have the understanding or insight in how to apply it.
- They will say, “I know the Bible says that I’m supposed to forgive others, but….” They know the truth, but they don’t understand how to apply it. Wisdom is understanding God’s truth and what it means in your situation.
- They might say, “I know the Bible says that God cares about me, but….” They know the truth that God cares, but they don’t understand how that applies when things are not going right. Wisdom is understanding and having insight regarding God’s care and love in your situation.
It’s one thing to know the truth, it’s another thing to understand it. This is one reason why we get so irritated and frustrated with God sometimes. We know what He has told us, but it makes no sense to us. Why do I have to do that? What does God do this or don’t do that? Why is God against me doing this or that?
You remember when you were growing up? Your parents put rules in place that you thought were stupid. You had to be in at a certain time. You couldn’t be with certain people. You couldn’t go to certain things. You couldn’t do this or have that. They had all these rules, advice, and guidelines for your life. You knew what your parents had said, but you didn’t really understand them and because of the lack of understanding you either obeyed them with an attitude or disobeyed them and did whatever you wanted to do.
But something happened that took you from knowing to understanding. You grew up, you had kids and those stupid rules that were placed on you… you are now applying some them to your own kids. Because you now have insight and understanding of why you needed them and how they apply to your life and your kid’s life. It’s one thing to know the truth, it’s another thing to understand it.
With that said look at what God’s Word says in Colossians 1:9-10, “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (NLT). Knowledge give you the information, understanding gives you the motivation.
Before we move on I want to make a distinction between the word “wise” and “understand.” Generally speaking, the word “wise” refers to knowing Biblical principles and applying them. The word “understand” carries the idea of specialized knowledge, such as that of a highly skilled tradesman or professional.
- You are “wise” when you apply Biblical principles of marriage to your marriage. But you “understand God’s ways” as you specifically apply them to your spouse. When you takes God’s wisdom about marriage and then apply them specifically to your spouse and your marriage in light of your communication skills, your spouse’s communication skills, both of your weaknesses, both of your strengths, both of your maturity or immaturity you are demonstrating your “understanding” of “God’s ways” for your relationship. When you understand the needs of your spouse, understand their communication style, understand their strengths and weaknesses, understand what encourages them and what doesn’t and you apply God’s wisdom specifically to your marriage you are operating in both wisdom and understanding.
The coupling of the two words “wise and understanding” has in view the truth and its application. Wisdom knows the good and knows how to do the good. Understanding knows why the good is important and how it impacts others.
Wisdom is visibly seen
Finally, wisdom is visibly seen. You know wisdom when you hear it, but you can also recognize wisdom when you see it. Wisdom is not just academic. It’s more than knowing truth. Wisdom is practical in its nature. Wisdom is more about what you do, than what you know. Look again at James 3:13, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” Let’s make some observations from this.
- We are told to “prove” we have wisdom and understanding of God’s ways. You are not proving this to God (He already knows if you have wisdom or not), but you are proving this to those in your life. To “prove” (deiknumi) something means to demonstrate and show it. To prove that I have $100 I would pull it out of my wallet and show it to you. You would see it and know I have it. The same is true about wisdom. Wisdom is not to be hidden, but it is to be demonstrated and shown. God wants people to see His wisdom operating in your life, as a result He receives honor and glory through you. So go ahead and prove that you are wise. That is what God wants you to do.
How do we prove it? How can others see God’s wisdom operating in your life? James gives us three ways we demonstrate wisdom in our life.
- First, wisdom is seen in living “an honorable life.” An “honorable life” is a life that is moral, upright, ethical, and respectable. A person with wisdom will treat people fairly, they will show respect to others, they will do the right thing, they can be trusted, they think about others and how to bless them. They sacrifice for others, they are kind and gentle. They don’t hold grudges. It is an honorable life. Wisdom will produce this honorable life. Listen to 1 Peter 2:12, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (NLT).
- Second, wisdom is seen in “doing good works.” The word “good” refers to whatever is pleasing to God. The word “works” refers to actions, deeds, and efforts. So when we are talking about “good works” we are talking about doing things in such a way that it pleases God. Good works include things like…
- How you love your spouse
- How you treat your children
- How you manager your money
- How you deal with conflict
- How you treat people who are different than you
- How you speak to others
When you see a person whose life is filled with “good works” you are seeing a demonstration of wisdom lived out.
- Third, wisdom is seen in “humility.” This “humility” (prautes) refers to a meek and gentle attitude with an open spirit toward others. Some translations use the word gentle rather than humility, but the meaning is the same. It carries the idea of tenderness and graciousness. A person who is wise is a person who is not bitter, malicious, self-seeking, self-promoting, arrogant or vengeful. Wisdom says, “I am not above you, but with you.” Wisdom says, “I was wrong. I am sorry.” Wisdom forgives. Wisdom is patient with others. Wisdom accepts you as you are. It’s humble.
This humility is a quality rooted in such a conviction about the overruling sovereignty of a wise and loving God that it accepts his dealings and dispositions without resistance. But it is also a quality that accepts without retaliation the insults and injuries caused by one’s fellow men, recognizing that these, too, are under God’s providential control.
What is wisdom? Wisdom is applied truth. Wisdom is spiritual insight. Wisdom is visibly seen. Wisdom is God’s Word with flesh on it. Listen carefully; wisdom is more of a who, than a what. God’s wisdom is not about learning a bunch of wise statements and then doing it. God’s wisdom is about developing a relationship with wisdom and letting wisdom live its life through you. Notice what Paul says about wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin” (NLT). Wisdom is more of a who than a what.
The wise life is Jesus living through your life. Wisdom is a Christ-empowered life that lives for the glory of God. Wisdom is allowing the Spirit of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the power of Jesus, the presence of Jesus, and the grace of Jesus to control and influence your life. When Jesus is the Lord of your life then God’s wisdom is in control of your life. Without Jesus there is no true wisdom. With Jesus there is all the wisdom you will ever need. Wisdom is more of a who than a what.