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James 3
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

You can’t scroll through Instagram for a couple of seconds without coming across an influencer. The type of influencer that’s famous for being famous. But an authentic influencer, like a parent, a spouse, or a friend, is someone who has wisdom.

But what exactly is wisdom?

There are 3 layers.

  1. Knowledge vs. wisdom
  2. Wisdom appearing as knowledge filtered through experience. For example, younger people tend to be smart but not wise. This is about what you DO with your experiences. The internet has created more access to “knowledge” than ever before, but not more wisdom.
  3. Two specific kinds of wisdom. This is where James sets up a contrast. How do you know which type of wisdom you have? The source is revealed by its effects.

How is the type of wisdom determined? The source is revealed by what flows out, and its effect. The intentions lead to the effects.  

James 3
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.

Why were they bitter, envious, or selfishly ambitious?

  • Because they were poor, and others were rich/living it up?

  • Because the “sinners” looked like they were having all the fun? “If sin isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.” We can’t dress up our sin as righteousness in response to other people’s sins. It requires the roots of the sin (bitterness, envy, ambition) to be pulled out. We can't remodel the sin without addressing its foundation first. Sin can’t be covered up with a fresh coat of paint.

James 3
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.

World’s Wisdom

The world’s wisdom strives for self-advancement. Look at verse 14 and the word “harbor.” A harbor is where you keep stuff until you use it to take you somewhere. When our agendas, viewpoints, and doctrine cast a dark shadow over selfless love and limitless grace, our platforms melt, our voices diminish, and Jesus cannot be seen.

The source of worldly wisdom is pride. That’s right, pride… the root of all sin. Worldly wisdom decreases others while we increase. There’s a tremendous spiritual dimension to this.

When our agendas, viewpoints, and doctrine cast a dark shadow over selfless love and limitless grace, our platforms melt, our voices diminish, and Jesus cannot be seen.

Others threaten the world's wisdom. Take a look at verse 14 again. The outflow of worldly wisdom is insecurity.

What does this look like?

  1. When we have to position ourselves in relation to those around us.
  2. When we seek affirmation from others or receive it from the misfortunes of others.
  3. When other people threaten us.

Why are Christians so fascinated with the sins of others?

When we’re insecure, we invent an alternate reality.

We convince ourselves that a person looked at me funny, that a person is talking about me, that a person doesn’t like me. There can be little truth in this alternate reality, but it’s certainly NOT truth.

Living this way produces discord and leads to evil.

In James 3:15-16, it's not about healthy disagreement. Any healthy relationship has healthy disagreement. In these verses it's about bitter, destructive disagreement. Healthy disagreement in strong relationships strengthens and nurtures. Unhealthy disagreement weakens and destroys relationships.

James says you can tell about the source from its effects. The effect of worldly wisdom is disorder and evil – the opposite of peace.

But here’s the contrast:

James 3
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.

If you want to reap righteousness, you have to sow in peace – how you DO the thing matters.    

Why you really do something has a tremendous effect on the fruit you produce. You can do the right thing the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, and it will produce the wrong fruit.

God’s Wisdom

God's wisdom is demonstrated by living well. You don't just talk, you do, and the effects of your doing are evident. As a result, you have a life that speaks for itself and relationships that speak for themselves.

Instead of immediately trying to lead or influence your relationships, have you spent enough time serving? Enough time submitting? Enough time building? This is the reason that when a lot of very smart Christians with a lot to offer move into “leadership,” no one follows them.

Sometimes we try to speak things to people, but they’re not received because our lives do not yet have enough credibility to empower our words.      

How do you get this credibility? Serving, submitting, building, being. This takes TIME.

God's wisdom is focused on serving others. You move into action, embrace humility first, then serve others and build the relationship.

Embracing humility AND moving into action – for the long term – produces credibility.

The outflow of Godly wisdom is humility, not insecurity.

What’s the difference?

There are a lot of insecure people who have a terrible view of themselves or are falsely humble. True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. Do you filter everything through how it might affect you?

Godly wisdom brings peace, not strife. The effect of Godly wisdom is peace, reconciliation, and righteousness.

We should all ask ourselves if our “wisdom” brings death or life.            

How do you make the shift to Godly wisdom?

  • You have to figure out your source

  • You have to dig a little bit

  • You have to look for the source because it will be revealed by its effects

Granted, sometimes, the effects of our lives are not intentional and can be outside of our control if others are involved. But patterns are very revealing over time.

A great way to reflect on this is to look at the characteristics of verse 17 again.

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.

Do the effects of your life (relationships, legacy) look like this?

If not, then you can do something about it, and you won’t be doing it alone. If you’re a Jesus follower, you have the spirit and power of God.

And James isn’t speaking to individuals. He’s speaking to the whole group. This is something that’s about WE. Something WE do together – encouraging each other.

And that’s where heaven and our lives here on earth collide.

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