“Wisdom From Above”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 3.17-18
James 3. Enron, the very name is synonymous with fraud and bankruptcy. According to one article, Enron, which was an energy company in Texas, was the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history at that time and the biggest audit failure.
Enron was formed in 1985 by Kenneth Lay after merging Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. Several years later, when Jeffrey Skilling was hired, he developed a staff of executives that, by the use of accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting, were able to hide billions of dollars in debt from failed deals and projects. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and other executives not only misled Enron’s board of directors and audit committee on high-risk accounting practices, but also pressured the auditor, Arthur Anderson, to ignore the issues.
Enron shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit after the company’s stock price, which achieved a high of $90.75 per share in mid-2000, plummeted to less than $1 by the end of November 2001, a month after the scandal struck. On December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy for a figure of $63.4 billion in assets, making it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history at that time.
Many executives at Enron were indicted for a variety of charges and some were later sentenced to prison. Enron’s auditor, Arthur Andersen, was found guilty in a United States District Court of illegally destroying documents relevant to the SEC investigation which voided its license to audit public companies, effectively closing the business.
Employees and shareholders received limited returns in lawsuits, despite losing billions in pensions and stock prices. On May 25, 2006, the jury in the Lay and Skilling trial returned its verdicts. Skilling was convicted of 19 of 28 counts of securities fraud and wire fraud and acquitted on the remaining nine, including charges of insider trading. He was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison. In 2013 the United States Department of Justice reached a deal with Skilling, which resulted in ten years being cut from his sentence.
Lay was convicted of all six counts of securities and wire fraud for which he had been tried, and he was subject to a maximum total sentence of 45 years in prison. However, before sentencing was scheduled, Lay died on July 5, 2006. All told, sixteen people pleaded guilty for crimes committed at the company, and five others were found guilty.
A monumental failure; though it appeared to be going so well, Enron inevitably fell off the cliff when called to account.
So also is the wisdom of this world, the wisdom from below. It appears to be going fine as you get along in this world, but when required to give an account, the wisdom of this world will only leave you bankrupt before God.
Let’s read again James 3:13-18 and notice that James contrasts the wisdom from below with the wisdom from above.
James 3:13–18 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
That wisdom is from below will leave you bankrupt before God. But the wisdom from above will not … verse 17…
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Those last two verses are our text this morning. Here, as you can see in verse 17, James describes the wisdom from above.
Now, wisdom isn’t just knowledge; wisdom is applied knowledge. It’s applying the knowledge you do have. And James gives us 5 phrases that describe what wisdom from above is …
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits,… [that’s 1]
…. and 2 words at the end of verse 17 that speak of it in negative terms… unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Think of this as James’ fruit of the Spirit. Just like Paul discussed the fruit of the Spirit, so also James discusses the fruit of wisdom.
First, wisdom from above described in verse 17 and then it’s fruit v. 18.
Wisdom from Above Described (v. 17)
When you have true wisdom from above, these qualities will be yours.
The wisdom from above is first pure… meaning preeminently… The wisdom from above is preeminently pure.
EXP: Purity is the preeminent characteristic of wisdom from above. Someone who is heavenly wise will be pure, meaning he’ll live a morally pure life. He’ll express in his life what Christ has done for him for all eternally.
When someone trusts Christ, Christ comes and purifies him, cleanses him from all sin. And gradually, as the believer grows, he’ll grow in purity.
1 John 3:3 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
And James’ focus especially is that our motives be pure. If we’re truly saved and have been given wisdom from above and have been made pure, we wouldn’t have jealousy and selfish ambition in the church. We wouldn’t lord it over the flock or use the flock for our own benefit, for power, or money.
TRANS: No, wisdom from above is pure. Someone who has it will be pure, pure in motive … but also peaceable.
EXP: He won’t be at war trying to get his own way.
ILL: Christmas songs are still being sung at our house, particularly by one of children. Let’s just say in this episode, peace was tested … One afternoon her and Pazli were downstairs playing and this one begins singing…
“Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King! Peace … peace on earth, and mercy mild…” Hey, give me that back!…the irony was not lost on me…!
James says that wisdom from above, godly wisdom is peaceable; it loves peace and promotes it.
But peace is also something that we have when we get saved that’s to be demonstrated in the life …
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
When we trust Christ for salvation and turn our back on our old lives and seek to follow Jesus and be His disciple, and God declares us righteous in His sight, we now have peace with God.
What we have with God … peace … should progressively be worked out in the life more and more. Because too often you have in churches what you see in James 4:1-2…just look down there…
James 4:1–2 1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
Bickering and fighting and anger, lusting and envy… but where’s the peace with God worked out in the life that God has given us in Christ?
And speaking of wisdom … Solomon says…
Proverbs 3:16–17 16 Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace.
You’ll know someone truly wise, because they will be at peace and loving it.
Pure, peaceable, and the wisdom from above is …gentle or considerate.
EXP: Henry Barclay, who was an expert in the Greek language, says in his commentary that this word translated gentle is the most untranslatable word in the ancient Greek lanuage.
A man who is gentle or considerate is the man who knows the strict justice found in the word of God and knows when to make allowances and forgo the right to condemn. This is the man whose mercy governs his justice and who understands there is something greater than simply rules and regulations. Someone who has this quality is patient when wronged, and doesn’t lash out when he himself experiences dishonor. “Hey, give me that back” turns into “we’ll suffer the wrong.”
This is Christ when … in…
1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges righteously.
TRANS: A wise person will be pure, peaceable, gentle or considerate…and also reasonable…
EXP: Reasonable or easily persuaded. Of course a wise person is not gullible; he does not swallow everything spoken to him, but the point here is that he’s not stubborn and he’s willing to listen. A wise man defers to others, is quick to hear and knows when to yield. The wise man is teachable, he’s not obstinate. A wise person can be corrected and doesn’t always need to be right about everything.
Proverbs 21:2 Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.
ILL: David failed to display this quality and was not easily persuaded or reasonable when he took the census of Israel. David began to trust in the strength of his army, rather than in the LORD of his army. So he tells Joab the commander of the army to take the census of the people. But Joab advises against doing such things, saying simply … “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see; but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?”
What a righteous rebuke by Joab! But David was not easily persuaded or reasonable. And many in Israel paid the ultimate price for their leader’s lack of this wise quality.
Don’t be arrogant and obstinate; be willing to listen and to change your mind, even if it’s your subordinate…at work, or in the home.
Point: With just these characteristics … a believer who is pure, peaceable, gentle or considerate, and easily persuaded or reasonable … If you have these characteristics, you are the exact opposite of the demonic natural earthly wisdom that’s from below from verse 15 of James 3… Because the wisdom that’s from below is jealous or envious … selfish and personally ambitious to the neglect of others…
TRANS: But wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, considerate, and reasonable … and also full of mercy and good fruit….
Full of Mercy and good fruit
EXP: Expressing mercy is an indication of somebody who truly is godly and wise. You could write down in the margin of your Bible …Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall ….what? … receive mercy.
Mercy isn’t just pity or a feeling, but it’s compassion in action. There are works to be done in mercy: forgiveness, helping those in need … but do you only help yourself and not others? Let’s be actively merciful to others and find ways of helping people.
The merciful have been shown mercy by God.
But mercy goes beyond showing it to people who deserve it. Mercy is to be shown for anyone who is experiencing trouble or suffering even if he has brought it on him himself.
ILL: This is the kind of mercy Lot needed. You remember Lot. He went to Sodom of his own will and his righteous soul was tormented in that city. And when that fateful day dawned when God was going to rain down fire and brimstone from the sky, the angels urged Lot saying “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.”
16 But Lot hesitated, it says… So the angels mercifully grabbed his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters … why? Because the text says … the mercy of the Lord was upon him and they brought him out and put him outside of the city.
But the angels were used by God to express the mercy of God upon someone whom we may think got himself into this mess. But God was merciful to him; we too need to be merciful to people even when they get themselves into the mess that they are in.
God gets us out of the mess of our sin when we call upon him; it’s our own fault! But all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Let us be merciful, like our Father in heaven is merciful.
You can see then that James is tying together wisdom with action. I may be able to wax eloquent and exude a contemplative sort of wisdom, but James is saying if I don’t do good works, that I am not wise. I must be full of good fruit as well; my life must show my wisdom in what I do, not just what I say…James’ teaching here strips the wisest of sages of their glory.
TRANS: Now two negative..
True and godly wisdom from above is also unwavering. It doesn’t vacillate or take one position at one time and another position at another time; it is consistent. The word of God says what it says and the wise Christian stands upon what it says. Christ has given us certainty; there are absolutes and the wise person is himself certain because of the certainty of God’s word on the matter. The wise man takes a stand.
This is a glory for believers, this is consistency…Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
The certainties of God’s truth turns a foolish, person wise.
And he’ll be consistent and faithful even in the face of opposition … as Paul says in that very next verse … and…
Philippians 1:28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
God prophesied for many centuries that He was going to send His Messiah; He didn’t waver, but kept His word and at the fullness of time, sent His Son.
ILL: Abraham, though he was a hundred years old, didn’t waver in unbelief that God would give him a son, but purposed to give glory to God and to keep on trusting him. He was consistent, unwavering.
Be consistent in your job, in your family life, don’t divorce your church life from your home life or family life. A wise person will be consistently the same person no matter where he is…
TRANS: Lastly in verse 17, the idea of being consistent fits well with the next word, “sincere” or “without hypocrisy.”
Godly wisdom is without hypocrisy. It is sincere. It doesn’t say one thing and do another. It’s honest and it doesn’t pretend to be what it isn’t. It doesn’t “play a part” for some gain.
You might be a hypocrite …
If you expect God to forgive you, but refuse to forgive others.
If you’re disgusted by the moral filth that is playing on your TV or DVD player.
If you complain about being poor on Twitter or Facebook via your smartphone.
If you have a “save the planet” bumper sticker on your Hummer.
If you point out what is wrong in other’s lives, but never notice what’s wrong in your own life. “Remove the log in your eye to see clearly to help people with the specks in theirs.”
If the wise phrase “do unto others as you would want them to do to you” is usually applied from your mouth, but only for others.
If you can go to church on Sunday and thank God for His grace, and then at lunch be unkind or rude to your waiter or waitress.
Or if you’re more worried about your image than Jesus’ image.
James pulls the mask off of the church’s hypocrisy. Wisdom from above doesn’t have hypocrisy…
ILL: And Christ will judge those who are hypocrites…You remember the evil slave who said in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Jesus has no tolerance for hypocrites…here, claiming to be a slave of Christ but beating up on his fellow slaves and eating and drinking with drunkards…A Christian who beats people up with his fists or his words and who eats and drinks with drunkards…this man is a hypocrite who deserves to be in that eternal place of torment.
Someone who is saved won’t be known for being a hypocrite.
TRANS: Now, what’s the result or the fruit of this wisdom? …
The Fruit of Wisdom from Above (v.18)
Verse 18 …
“And the seed that is righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.”
Or the ESV says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
The word seed in our New American Standard and the word harvest in the ESV is the word fruit. So harvest is the idea here.
A harvest of righteousness is sown. How do you sow a harvest? You know this. Part of the harvest can be used to seed the next crop, can’t it ? …
ILL: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but food prices are going up and will go up significantly this year. One article said that Canada is the only industrialized country where you find the food inflation rate to be above 2.5 per cent.
It’s mainly because of the weakness of the Canadian dollar and droughts in places where they grow our fruits and vegetables…with this happening, you may be planning your garden a little more carefully this year.
And when you gather your harvest, you could save your seeds and use them to plant the garden next year. If you do that, in a sense, you’re sowing your harvest.
“And the seed whose fruit is righteousness or better … a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
If you sow righteousness, you harvest righteousness. But then that righteousness is not only enjoyed like a harvest, but is also sown again to produce more righteousness… just like you could save your tomato seeds and use them to produce more tomatoes.
Just like that, if you sow righteousness in the field of true godly wisdom from above, you’ll reap righteousness.
Now, in the verse… who resows the harvest of righteousness? Peacemakers, those who make peace. A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. … By those who make peace, these are the peacemakers. So here it is … Peacemakers sow a whole harvest of righteousness in peace…in the climate of peace.
And what’s the result then? The result is peace. Peacemakers sow righteousness in peace.
And so they don’t sow it in conflict. Peacemakers don’t sow anything in conflict. They don’t force righteousness out of people, or hit people over the head with the Bible …no, peacemakers sow righteousness in peace.
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Here’s the point …. You’ll know a child of God because they are always at peace with others; they are in right relation with God and others. You walk into their house and it’s not a house of strife and conflict, but it’s a refuge and place to get away from the coldness of the world and to get warmed up by the peace of righteous living.
You won’t find any good thing in a climate of strife and conflict. Where there is a family or a church and there is bitterness and disunity and strife, the seeds of righteousness will never grow and there will never be true peace.
Be at peace with one another! Seek peace and pursue it. We’ve been given peace from God; this also should be worked out in the world.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 3.17-18
Are you wise? Do you have the bankrupt wisdom of this world or do you have the wisdom from God that is to be desired above any earthly riches? … Are you discouraged thinking that you’ll never grow, you’ll never grow in wisdom…Don’t give up! Keep growing, thinking in God’s word, and praying to Him who is ever wise …
[deacon name] Jobs is well-known throughout the world as a pioneer and leader in the technology industry. He is the founder of Apple, Incorporated, and Apple products like the iPhone and iPad remain the largest selling mobile computing products throughout the world. Surprisingly, though, Jobs’ ultimate success came after decades of failure. The company was started in a garage.
Apple’s first computer, the Macintosh, was a dismal failure when compared with the success of Microsoft computers. The company almost went bankrupt multiple times, racked up huge amounts of debt, and nearly crumbled as partners and business associates came and left in frustration. [deacon name] Jobs pursued his dream, though, and at the time of his death Apple was one of the most profitable companies in the world.
If you’ve trusted Christ, you’re not bankrupt before God; He’s given you at least a seed of wisdom. As you pursue him and submit to him and seek His face like your life depended on it and treasure his word like your success before Him depends on it, it’s then that you’ll grow in wisdom. Ask God for it and watch him provide.
In the end, God is the only wise one. He however, dispenses His wisdom to His children in Christ.
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”
To close, let’s sing about God’s wisdom… #23 Immortable Invisible.