September 26, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
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.
You can learn a lot from reading books. Books can give you great understanding, but they may not be able to give you wisdom. If you are walking down the street with your head in a book gaining knowledge from each new sentence, but lacking the wisdom to look up, then you might not see the pothole, post, or person in front of you leading to an embarrassing or even painful collision.
Miriam had understanding but ran into a painful situation when she did not exercise wisdom. Miriam was not alone though; her brother Aaron was there with her also failing to exercise wisdom. In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron, the older sister and brother of Moses, began to complain about Moses’ wife who was not from one of the tribes of Israel and therefore not as good as them. Then, they went further showing their jealousy and pride against Moses. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. At once, God asked the three siblings to come to the tent of meeting, which was the sacred place God met with the leaders of Israel. God made his presence known by coming down in a pillar of cloud, and then he reprimanded Miriam and Aaron for going against Moses, his prophet and leader of Israel. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron then asked Moses not to hold their sin against them. But Moses did hold it against them, and he asked God to strike them both down, and they died. NO! That is not what happened. But think how often in books, movies, tv, on the news and in our own lives, we see that. Think how often we want revenge when someone wrongs us. Not so with Moses. He did not treat Miriam and Aaron with punishment or judgment, but with mercy, as we hear Moses’ response to his brother, 13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” Moses prayed for his sister’s healing revealing his heart of love and wisdom from above.
In James 3, James addressed the two kinds of wisdom found in the world. Wisdom is to be understood as putting correct knowledge into proper practice. Knowledge can be found in books, online or learned through experience, and when a person puts that knowledge into practice it reveals whether they have wisdom. In identifying one of the two kinds of wisdom, James wrote, 14 “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” This is the wisdom of sin. It is what those who deny God and are without faith call wisdom. It is the wisdom of the sinful nature. Those with this wisdom boast about the evil they do, things like drunkenness, how many people they have been with and how lazy they are while still getting paid. Or, those with this wisdom deny what they are doing and how they are living is wrong or hurting anyone. James continued to write, 15 “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” This kind of wisdom is from below as opposed to above. It is the wisdom of what is referred to as the unholy three: the world, our sinful flesh and the devil.
This kind of wisdom, the wisdom from below, is not true wisdom. This kind of wisdom has corrupted and filled this world. It explains why the world is full of fighting, chaos, pain and problems. James wrote, 16 “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” This is not the wisdom to which you were called when God called you to faith. In James 1, he wrote, 27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” True wisdom is not from below, from here in this world and from our hearts, but from above, outside of us, from God. True wisdom does not find ways to serve ourselves and take advantage of others. True wisdom is something you and I fail at each day when in our weakness we give back into our sinful nature.
The wisdom from above carried out by Jesus is the cure for our selfish, sinful wisdom from below. In Mark 9, we hear Jesus tell his disciples a second time, 31 … “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. Jesus told the disciples what the near future held for him, but they lacked understanding and were lost in the wisdom from below. Then he asked them, 33 … “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Jesus disciples were less concerned about learning more about Jesus’ path to save them and the world, than they were about their standing in the world. They were lost in their pride, so Jesus humbled them. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Jesus fulfilled these words. He was the servant of all people. In James 2, he wrote, 13 … “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Jesus revealed God’s desire to show mercy over judgment. God would rather save, than destroy as we hear in 1 Timothy 2, 3 “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Rather than punish the world for their sin, God put the sins of the world on his one and only Son, Jesus. Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice to save all people from judgment. He did not treat you and I how we deserve; he showed us mercy. This is the heart of wisdom from above. It is a loving, gracious and merciful heart that wants to save and serve others. It is Jesus’ heart for you.
Wisdom from above is humble. Jesus was humble as he came to live as one of us to endure suffering, rejection and death to give us eternal life. Moses was humble as he called to God to heal his sister even when she turned against him. In James 3, he asked the question, 13 “Who is wise and understanding among you?” His answer did not involve test scores, GPA’s, levels of education completed or life experience. Instead, he wrote, 13 … “Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Wisdom from above shows itself. You show that you have wisdom from above when you live a good and humble life. James wrote, 18 “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” His point was that jealousy, selfish ambition and anger do not produce peace or the good God wants. These only produce sin and lead people away from God. Instead, spread peace as one of God’s people sharing the wisdom from above. Peace looks like letting your spouse choose the restaurant, dog breed, paint color, baby name, vacation destination, etc. Peace looks like avoiding arguments over politics and money, so that you can talk about Jesus. Peace looks like people gathered around the Word of God and serving together. We are blessed to have many opportunities to gather as a congregation around the Word of God. We are also blessed to be working on a program called Personal Member Ministry for our congregation. This program will give special attention to each member with in depth time in God’s Word to better understand their unique spiritual gifts and how God has, is and can use them to serve their family, friends, coworkers, classmates, community, fellow believers, etc.
You can learn a lot from reading books. Books can give you great understanding, but only one book gives true wisdom. God worked through his Word, the Bible, to bring you to faith in him, to save you from sinful, worldly, demonic ways that lead to death and hell. Through God’s Word, you learn of your Savior who kept his head down focused on what had been written about him so that he walked into the situation that put him on the cross. Jesus also left the tomb empty guaranteeing your resurrection to eternal life. You have that eternal life already and God gave James these words to write down to encourage you to live as a citizen of heaven now, to live with wisdom from above. James described the wisdom from above with seven characteristics, 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.” These characteristics describe the lives of God’s humble children who live in thanks each day for the mercy and love he showed them. Live each day thankful that God has given you more than you deserve, and imitate his love with others showing them mercy, rather than judgment. Show and tell others how Jesus saved them from the earthly, sinful, demonic wisdom of the world. Show and tell others of God’s great love and mercy at the cross and empty tomb, and in your peaceful words and actions and they will see that wisdom from above is true wisdom. Amen.