This week we are looking at James 3: 13-18. James is questioning where does our wisdom come from? In Proverbs we read that the beginning of wisdom is fear (respectful awareness and awe) of the Lord. But that can be accused of being a very vague statement. One of the reasons I love the epistles is that the apostles were so explicit in their teachings. So we are going to separate and examine the verses in 3 different sections, the first being verses 13-14, the second being the 15th-16th verses, and the third being the 17th-18th verses. The first section of these verses is what I call the “Challenge.” James’ blunt nature and frank discussions calls Messianic Christians on their behaviour that he has been seeing since the recent formation of the Church. The 2nd section I call the “Warning” section. Here James is laying out plainly what the wisdom from below looks like, what it can do to us, what our motivations are, and warns that the followers of Christ have the potential for both the wisdom from heaven and the wisdom from hell! The 3rd and final segment and section of this scripture is the “Exhortation and Encouragement” section. James has shocked the Messianic Christians, he has warned them, and now he gives them hope. Human beings are extremely hard headed people and it is only when we are stripped and broken down that we are open to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit and that is why St. James has written this portion of the letter in this way.
So let us begin on this journey together, let us look at verses 13-14, the “Challenge.” In Biblical and modern culture we have people who are called “pharisaic.” They speak in one way when watched and act another in private; we may call them hypocrites. When James wrote this letter to the Church they were still so young, and older beliefs, customs, and religious sects were infiltrating the pure message of the Messiah, leading them astray. James says to us that if you claim to have this heavenly wisdom you need to show it. Not just in public but in your private life. My friends’ wife had a grandmother was a devoted Christian all her life and who she was in private was the same person she was in her public and professional life. And James challenges us, he says that if you are not like this; if you have sinful, personal motivations, and are a slave to evil desires do not be happy about this; do not boast about how you have been these things, and certainly do not lie about it. James is telling the Messianic Christians if you have sin, hidden, deep dark sin, do not hide it, bring it to the light of God, confess it, and face the truth! When I was a younger man I used to justify and hide the wrong things I did, while you may be forgiven by God for those sins, you never mentally recover completely this way and are certainly never able to move on! Our society teaches us this this hide and dash trick and the results are often hidden sins, disgraceful shames, and empty searches for meaningless idols to fill the hurting holes in our souls.
Our Lord Jesus commanded honesty and bravery, even if facing our darkest desires strikes fear into our hearts. And this is the central theme behind James’ challenge
The second section of the scriptures this week focuses on what I call the “Warning.” The “Warning” is very much the effect of the cause and effect relationship that results from sourcing one wisdom instead of another. In our relationships we have results that come from whichever wisdom we follow. Now we need to be clear as Christians, we do not subscribe solely to one wisdom or the other but often times as humans bounce between both. But often in our relationships when we indulge the wisdom of hell, the consequences can be disastrous for our relationships. James says every evil can come from this demonic wisdom and disorder, chaos is the natural effect to follow. In the original Greek the word for wisdom that James uses is the same word we would associate for life change or the philosophical path one may follow; so it is not a concept that is abstract or distant, it is very much an idea we should adhere to, follow the ways of God and His wisdom, or commit idolatry and follow Satan’s wisdom. A mate of mine was once married; he’s been divorced now for several years. There were mistakes on both sides of the marriage, but his wife had done something pretty severe; and my mate is probably one of the most forgiving men I’ve ever met but he couldn’t allow himself to forgive her because she kept trying to justify what she did, she kept trying to shift the blame. As my wife calls it, sorry with a “but.” Here’s the danger, if we cannot admit what we have done and ask for pure, unbridled forgiveness we have not humbled ourselves and as James says, we are not peace loving, humble, or submissive, and we are then not reflecting the true nature of Christ.
How are we feeling? Sombre? Low? Humbled? I was when I really began to study this passage. However the younger brother of Christ offers us a hand, just like his Brother did. He guides us into the section I call “Exhortations and Encouragements.” He shows us what we need to do to gain that heavenly wisdom and to demonstrate that we have gained it. He tells us brothers and sisters’ heavenly wisdom is pure, if it isn’t pure, it isn’t from God! It is also peace loving, submissive, humble, considerate, full of spiritual fruit (meaning that God’s good works are evident), impartial, and sincere. James is saying if you consistently source wisdom from God that this is the bi-product of that wisdom and the effect of this cause is that you will sow a harvest of righteousness. See this was the difference between what Christ offered and what the other “saviours” of the time did. He offered-and his apostles continued that teaching, a way out of hell. Many “saviours”, self-helpers, guru’s, and religious enlightened ones will always tells us of what we are doing wrong, what we’re not supposed to be doing; Rules, regulations, and a possible hope for a select few; but Christ Jesus and the Spirit of God, the Great Councillor warned us like all the others of our sins but unlike any of the others showed the right true path without partiality and with most sincere love. And that is what James is doing for the Messianic Christians right now in this text; what he is calling them to, and it is what the Spirit of the Lord is instilling in us now.