Introduction…

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.                James 3:13  /  (NIV)

 

I’ve always loved the book of James.  It barely made it into the Bible and some scholars still question it but personally…I love it.

It’s one of my favorite books in the whole Bible.  Why?  Well, other than the old rooting for the underdog kind of thing, I love it because it’s short.

When you have the attention span of a 6 year old that helps and for another it’s down to earth, practical…short on “theology” but long on “applicability”…that’s for me all right.

Practical, every day comment and advice to help us with everyday living and the struggle to have and to follow a faith that is relevant and present in our everyday living.

That’s why I’ve used the image I’ve used on the Power Point slide this morning.  Muddy boots, boots on the ground is a great image for exactly what the book of James is like.  No , jewel-bespekled high heels here…just boots that protect your feet and are good for getting down in the mud.  I love the image.

As I alluded to just a minute ago the book of James barely got enough votes to even make it into the Bible.  Sort of like my grade point average in both High School and College…barely over the minimum.  But James did make it into the Bible.  I’m sure glad.

The Council of Nicaea was called by Emperor Constantine some 300 years after Jesus lived (325 AD).  The Emperor called 300 or so religious leaders together and charged them with determining what was actual worthy to be included in the Bible and what wasn’t going to be included.

It was an incredibly complicated process that involved churchmen and scholars of varying beliefs in an atmosphere of dissension, jealousy, intolerance, persecution and bigotry to agree together on what would and what would not be included as our sacred literature.

The book of James got mixed reviews and barely got enough “votes” to make it in.  I love the book of James none the less.

James raises the age old question of wisdom.  What do you think about wisdom?  Let me tell you what James thought wisdom was…and wasn’t.

 

Wisdom:

James the brother of Jesus writes that wisdom comes from God and it takes a particular form.  Listen again:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 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.

17 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.

 

Who is wise among you?  Ponder that for a minute.

Good question eh?  Who do you think of when you think of the wisest people you have known in your own life?

How do you know?  What is it about them that brought them to your mind when I asked?

How do we decide who is wise and who isn’t?

There are all kinds of people who might be thought of as wise and down through the ages lots of men and women have been deemed as wise…often not during their own lifetime or in their own age but later, after they have gone.

Historically,

Socrates,

Plato,

The Buddha,

The Prophet, all kinds of men and women down through the ages are thought to     be wise.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines wisdom as

“Capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of            judgement in the choice of means and ends; sometimes, less strictly, sound sense,   esp. in practical affairs: opp. to folly;” also “Knowledge (esp. of a high or abstruse   kind); enlightenment, learning, erudition.”

The ancient Greeks considered wisdom to be an important virtue, personified as the Goddess of virtue, Athena.  Athena is said to have sprung from the head of Zeus. She was portrayed as strong, fair, merciful, and chaste.[5] To Socrates and Plato philosophy was literally the love of Wisdom.

The ancient Romans also valued wisdom. It was personified in Minerva. She also represents skillful knowledge and the virtues, especially chastity. Her symbol was the owl which is still a popular representation of wisdom, because it can see in darkness. She was said to be born from Jupiter’s forehead.

Wisdom is important within our faith.  Jesus emphasized it.  Paul argued that there is both secular and divine wisdom, urging Christians to pursue the latter.  The Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas considered wisdom to be the “father” of all virtues.

 

But, let’s lay all that academic stuff aside and go back to the down to earth kind of questions I asked you earlier.

It’s not what the dictionary says or what the ancient Greeks and Romans said about wisdom that really drives you today…it’s what you think of and know and have seen in your own life that matters.

What goes into wisdom?

What is wisdom?

Certainly it is more than the sum of its parts.

Knowledge, technical skill, intelligence, experience and more all go into wisdom but wisdom has to do with more than the sum of its parts…it is rooted in God, in the spiritual dimension of life and people who may be wise in the eyes of the world may or may not be wise in the eyes of God.

 

For those of who follow Jesus we know that the wisdom of the world is not the same as the wisdom of God.

James reminds us that the kind of wisdom that faith brings to us is reflected in the way we live, day in and day out.

The wisdom that comes from knowing and following the Lord is the kind that is seen in a good life.

 

It’s not what we know in our heads that marks the wisdom of Jesus…it’s what we know in our heart and how we live a good life.

It is in our deeds that the wisdom of Jesus plays out.

You can’t be mean spirited and be wise in the ways of Jesus.

You can’t be arrogant and haughty and be wise in the ways of Jesus.

You can’t ignore the poor and walk away from the less fortunate and be wise in the Lord.

 

If we harbor bitter envy we aren’t wise in Jesus.

If we have selfish ambition we aren’t wise in the Lord.

If we are always telling others how good we are or how much we know about Jesus we aren’t really wise in the eyes of the Lord.

 

The wisdom that comes from the Lord is …

Pure,

Peace loving,

Considerate,

Submissive,

Full of mercy and good fruit.

 

It is impartial and sincere.

 

The Bible makes it clear that wise people who know and follow the Lord are known by their good lives.

The questions every one of us have to ask ourselves is

Are we wise in the ways of the Lord?

Does our life show it?

Would others say so?

 

None of us are wise all the time or in all the ways of the Lord but all of us are called to be wise in the ways of the Lord,

…All of us are called to strive to be wiser in how we follow the Lord, in how we grow in the Lord.

…All of us are called to do our best to love others, to be kind, to walk humbly and to share the love of Christ with all.

 

Closing,

So who is wise among us?

Not the “Wise Guys” of the T.V. show called “The Wise Guys”.

Not necessarily the judges who wear long black robes and make rulings that challenge and turn upside down the ways of the God.

Not the people like the Pharisees or Sadducees who are always quoting scripture or trying to brag about how much they know or how anyone who sees something differently from them is going to hell.

The ones who are wise in the ways of the Lord are the ones who love the Lord, who do their best to follow the ways of the Lord and whose lives show the ways of the Lord.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 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, and demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 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.

James 3:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

Are you wise?