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.
We are in a series of lessons on wisdom. We have been dissecting James 3 and what God’s Word tells us about natural wisdom (the kind without God) and heavenly wisdom (God’s Wisdom). No matter who you are, you are navigating your life using one of those wisdoms. James is trying to help us understand and apply God’s wisdom to our life. With that said let’s take a look at James 3:13 where 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). James gives us 8 marks that identify God’s wisdom in action. We have already looked at the first four. Today, we are going to see that God’s wisdom is expressed through mercy.
Mercy says, “If I’m wise I will not emphasize your mistakes.”
Here is the main truth: God’s wisdom is being merciful. This says, “If I’m wise I will not emphasize your mistakes.” We are told in verse 17 that God’s wisdom is “full of mercy” (NLT). If that is the case then what is mercy? Listen carefully, mercy is compassion in action. You can see and hear mercy when it’s being applied. When God’s wisdom is operating in your life you will produce mercy toward others. You will be compassionate, caring, sympathetic, empathetic and genuinely concerned for others. Wise people are merciful people.
Earthly wisdom is focused on self and says, “Your problem is your problem and leave me out of it.” Earthly wisdom says, “I don’t care and don’t want to care.” Heavenly wisdom says, “Your problem is my problem and let me help.”
To help us understand God’s wisdom in the form of mercy I want to us to look at four different times mercy is mentioned in the Bible. There are a lot more but these four, I want to make sure they are on your spiritual radar and to give you something to think about when it comes to God’s wisdom and mercy. So, what does God’s wisdom look like? What does being merciful look like?
When I’m merciful, I am patient with those who upset me
Number one: When I’m merciful, I am patient with those who upset me. Psalm 145:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, [and as a result, the Lord is] slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (NLT). You are going to have people in your life, in your home, at work, at church, people you know and people you don’t know that are going to make you angry. They are going to annoy you, frustrate you, irritate you, aggravate you, bother you, and discourage you in some way. People who hurt others are hurting themselves in some way. If you are walking in the wisdom of God you are going to produce mercy toward these people. You are going to be slow to anger rather than quick to anger. You are going to find that you have this unfailing love and commitment to them even though they are pushing your buttons. When you are merciful, you will be slow to get angry. That is God’s wisdom in action. That is compassion in action.
When I’m merciful, I am helpful to those who are hurting
Number two: When I’m merciful, I am helpful to those who are hurting. We see a great example of this in Luke 10:25-37. It is the story of the Good Samaritan. This is rather lengthy, but I want to read this to you. Look closely at what God’s Word says about this.
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (NLT)
There are and will be people in your life who fall on hard times. Sometimes they had no control over it, but over times they did. God’s wisdom displays itself as mercy toward those who are hurting. When you are merciful, you are helpful to those who are hurting. That’s God’s wisdom on display.
When I’m merciful, I am kind to those who don’t like me
When I’m merciful, I am kind to those who don’t like me. I want you to see something very important in Luke 6. In Luke 6 we find Jesus teaching about loving your enemies. Loving those who are not nice to you and mistreat you some way. In Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” You are going to have people in your life who don’t like you. For whatever reason, they are going to be rude to you, impatient with you, sarcastic, mean or hurtful to you in some way. They are going to be ungrateful for you and act evil toward you. But if you are walking in God’s wisdom you are going to be compassionate and merciful toward them. This means you are going to love them anyhow. You are going to do what is good toward them. You are going to bless them, pray for them and lend to them when they have a need. God’s wisdom produces mercy and compassion, not hate or revenge. When you are merciful, you are kind to those who don’t like you. That’s God’s wisdom in action.
When I’m merciful, I am understanding toward the doubtful
When I’m merciful, I am understanding toward the doubtful. Jude 1:22-23 “And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives” (NLT). You are going to have people in your life whose faith in God is wavering. They are going to have doubts about God and what He says. You will see them trusting in their own wisdom rather than God’s. This wavering faith will lead them into various kinds of sins that will disappoint you and maybe even hurt you.
When you see someone’s faith wavering it is a time to demonstrate mercy, not coldness or rejection or ridicule. It is a time for God’s wisdom. It is a time for mercy. This is where you love them, but hate the sin. This is why James says, “Show mercy… but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” When you are merciful, you are understanding toward the doubtful. That’s God’s wisdom in action.
There are going to be people in your life you are going to be tempted to judge harshly and treat harshly because of what they have said or done, but God wants you to experience victory and in many cases victory comes by mercy. Back in James 2:13 we are told, “Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time” (MSG). In God’s opinion those who are merciful are the winners, not those who look down on others, who are judgmental, condemning, and unkind. In God’s wisdom mercy wins.
Colossians 3:12, this is not on your outline or on the wall… but Colossians 3:12 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (NLT). This means you have a choice to make. This means you have the power to either bring mercy into a relationship or harsh judgement. You can bring kindness or rudeness to the table. God is saying “clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy.” Let mercy be as common and evident in your life as the clothes you wear.
Before we wrap this up. I want to remind you that God’s wisdom includes information and His truth, but in reality to be able to live it out Jesus has to live in you. Look closely at Colossians 2:2-4 where Paul is writing about people like you and me. He says, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments” (NLT). People are going to tell you that God’s way is outdated and doesn’t work anymore. They are going to tell you that you are smart enough and you don’t need God. They are going to tell you, you don’t need a relationship with God… but I’m going to tell you the same thing that Paul is telling you, real wisdom is in Jesus and it is a relationship with Him that enables you to live and experience God’s wisdom and God’s mercy and to demonstrate it to others.
Marks of Heavenly Wisdom
If I’m wise I will not compromise my integrity
If I’m wise I will not antagonize your anger
If I’m wise I will not minimize your feelings
If I’m wise I will not criticize your suggestions
If I’m wise I will not emphasize your mistakes
If I’m wise I will not waste my life
If I’m wise I will not treat you unequally
If I’m wise I will not pretend to be someone I’m not