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«Sermon outline and notes: © Dr. Stephen Felker, Pastor Swift Creek Baptist Church.com, 18510 Branders Bridge Rd., Colonial Heights, VA 23834 ...»

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Sermon outline and notes:

© Dr. Stephen Felker, Pastor

Swift Creek Baptist Church.com, 18510 Branders Bridge Rd., Colonial Heights, VA 23834


James 3:13-18 “Are You Truly Wise?”

Intro. James begins this text by saying, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” There are

always those in a church or school who consider themselves wise. Such people may love to give

advice. But how can we know if they really are wise? How can we know if we should follow their advice and counsel? James is going to answer that question.

We need to know who can give wise counsel. We need to know who the wise teachers are among us. That’s because we all need to gain wisdom. Without wisdom you will make foolish mistakes morally, financially, and in other ways. Without wisdom your life will not be blessed. You will not live your life successfully.

What is wisdom? Wisdom is not just the accumulation of knowledge. Wisdom is the God-given ability to apply the right kind of knowledge to each situation. Knowledge comes from books. Wisdom comes from the Book. Knowledge comes from below. Wisdom comes from above.

There is certainly a great deal of knowledge in this world, and we all benefit from it. In fact, we are living in the midst of a knowledge and information explosion. But knowledge alone is not enough. Knowledge and education have not proven to be the answers to the fundamental problems of humanity. For example, we have the knowledge & technology for one farmer to produce 100 times more food than in the 19th century, but yet, we still have hunger. We have a more advanced educational system than ever before, but we also have more immorality, suicide, drug use, and violence than just a generation ago. Today, public schools teach knowledge, but not wisdom. In spite of years of secular education, our young people are graduating without being prepared for life. In our own day many people have enough knowledge to run a computer, but it seems that fewer people know how to run their lives. What we are lacking is true wisdom from God.

If you want to live life successfully in every realm of life, you need the wisdom of God.

Solomon said, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (Prov. 4:7). If you have wisdom, everything else will fall into place. Look over at Prov. 3:13-17, and let’s see what Solomon says about wisdom, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.

She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.

Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Now in v.15 we see that there are two kinds of wisdom. First of all, there is wisdom from above, a wisdom that comes from God. But James also recognizes that there is a wisdom that is worldly, natural, and even demonic. In 1 Corinthians 1 the apostle Paul wrote of the “wisdom of this world” (vv.20-21). Today, most of our politicians are offering humanistic, government solutions to the problems we face. Yet these worldly solutions create more problems than they solve. While man searches for wisdom apart from God, we need to realize that there is no true wisdom apart from God. So you need to make sure you get the right kind of wisdom.

So let’s look into our text and learn about true wisdom together. First of all, you need to



Many people claim to be wise. You may be among them. How can you know if you or someone else is truly wise? What is the real test? Is it by how many degrees they have by their name? Do you go by how smart they sound? James gives the real test in v.13, “Who is wise and understanding1 among you? Let him show2 by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” The test of true wisdom is to look at a person’s life. While the Greeks defined wisdom in terms of speculative knowledge and philosophy, the Hebrews defined wisdom as skillfully applying knowledge to practical living. So what James says here is certainly more in line with the Hebrew concept of wisdom. James indicates that real wisdom is not found in a man’s books. It is found in a man’s life. The true test of wisdom is works, not words. James says if you want to see how wise a person really is, don’t ask him how much he knows. Just observe him and see how he lives. You do not measure wisdom by IQ but by CQ. It’s not by the intelligence quotient but by the character quotient. Knowledge is of no benefit until it affects behavior in the right way. In fact, he says that wisdom will be manifest in a man’s “good conduct.” The word translated “good” (kalos) means “beautiful” or “noble.” It the kind of life that even a non-Christian will recognize as good and commendable.

When we select pastors, deacons, and teachers, we should not decide based on their talk, but based on their walk. We look at how they are living their lives. That’s the real test. And young ladies, when you decide who to marry, don’t decide based on what they say. Look at their character. Look at the kind of life they are living. That is the real rest of wisdom.

Next, you need to know:


Just a godly wisdom is manifested in a person’s life, even so worldly wisdom is manifested in a person’s life. So we are going to see how to know if a person is spouting off false wisdom. The contrast between false wisdom and true wisdom is crystal clear, and can be quickly

recognized. First of all:

A. Look for the Manifestations of False Wisdom – James says in v.14, “But if you have bitter envy and self–seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.” Wrong

thinking produces wrong living. So here in v.14 James gives 2 manifestations of false wisdom:

1. Bitter Envy - What is envy (zelos)? It is our discontent at the good fortune or success of others. Envy happens when we notice that someone gets a better job, or better grades, or if they are better looking, or drive a better car. People with bitter envy & jealousy live in a world that focuses on themselves.

Illustration: There are many examples of envy in the Bible. Cain was envious of his brother Abel, because God was more pleased with Abel’s sacrifice. It was because of envy that Joseph was sold by his brothers to be a slave in Egypt. It was envy that gripped King Saul’s heart as he heard the fair maidens singing the praises of David.

The Greek word translated "understanding" (epistemon) is used only here in the New Testament. It refers to a specialist or a professional highly skilled in applying his knowledge to practical situations.

This is an aorist imperative, a command in the 3rd person.

Notice that envy is usually associated with bitterness. Prov. 14:30 compares envy to “the rottenness of the bones.” Envy eats at the mind like a moth eats at a garment.

Now notice another manifestation of worldly wisdom:

2. Self-seeking – This Greek word (eritheia) also refers to selfish ambition that tends to create rivalry & conflict. It was used of people who entered politics for selfish motives.

Worldly wisdom says it only makes sense to put yourself first. Isn’t that the pathway to personal happiness? That’s what the world says, but that’s not what godly wisdom says. Worldly wisdom crowns self. Yet heavenly wisdom crucifies self. Worldly wisdom says the way to get to the top is to step on everybody else. Heavenly wisdom says the way to get to the top is to deny self & help others.

James is calling for us to take an inventory of our hearts. Take a look at yourself. What motivates you? If you realize that you have a self-centered kind of wisdom, you need to give heed to the last of v.14, “do not boast and lie against the truth.” In other words, stop boasting about your so-called wisdom. To say you are wise is to “lie against the truth.” That’s because your life is contradicting your claim.

You not only need to recognize the manifestations of false wisdom, but you also need to:

B. Recognize the Destructive Consequences of False Wisdom – James says in v.16, “For where envy and self–seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Why should you reject worldly wisdom? One reason is because it will lead to the following negative


1. Confusion - This word (akatastasia) refers to “instability, a state of disorder, or even chaos.” Jealousy & selfish ambition will lead to disorder & disturbances of peaceful relationships. They result in strife & bitter rivalries. Today we see turmoil in the home, discord in the office, fights in school, and even disturbances in the Church. There have been some movements in the church over the past 100 years that have created more confusion than anything else. Now can that be of God? No! Wherever there is disorder, you can mark it down, God’s wisdom is absent in one or both parties. The Bible says that God is a God of order and not confusion (1 Cor. 14:33, 40).

False wisdom will also produce:

2. Every Evil Thing - The word translated “evil” is phaulos, the word from which we get our word “foul.” It refers to worthless, ethically bad conduct. The Greek word translated “thing” is pragma. False wisdom produces nothing of any pragmatic value.

So if a church is following the world’s wisdom, rather than God’s wisdom, there will be confusion and instability. Nothing worthwhile will be accomplished. The many battles among Christians and the church splits, all suggest that something is wrong. Perhaps that “something” is the absence of the wisdom of God. So let us identify & reject the wisdom of this world, and seek the wisdom of God.

Now let’s see last of all:


As we have already discussed, true wisdom is demonstrated in the way we live our lives.

And so James identifies the life characteristics of true, godly wisdom. Put yourself to the test.

First of all, it is:

A. Pure – James says in v.17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure….” Notice that James makes special note of the fact that purity, or holiness, is first in importance. Though the natural mind sees sin as the pathway to happiness, wisdom understands that sin is stupid. It understands that if you sow sin today, you will reap sorrow tomorrow. Wisdom understands that the best way to live is to live a clean, pure life. James had already said back in 1:27 that real religion is “to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Wisdom never says go ahead and sow your wild oats. Wisdom never says if it feels good do it. Wisdom never says everybody else is doing it. Heavenly wisdom rejects immorality, drunkenness, lying, and cheating. First & foremost, godly wisdom will cause you to live a pure life.

Are you wise enough to live a pure life, or are you walking the pathway of sin? If you are living in sin you are not wise. You are setting yourself up for a life of sorrow & turmoil.

Another characteristic of wisdom is this. It will cause you to have:

B. Peaceable Relationships - We live every day in relationships with other people. We need wisdom to help in our personal relationships. Families need wisdom in how to get along with each other. You need wisdom to get along with people at work, at school, and certainly at church. And God’s wisdom will help you in this area.

You see, God’s wisdom leads to peace. In v.17 James says that “the wisdom that is from above is … peaceable,” or “peace loving.” A wise man follows Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Heavenly wisdom is the answer to earth’s conflicts.

Furthermore, the close connection between purity & peace is also affirmed in v.18, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” “The fruit of righteousness” probably refers to the fruit produced by righteousness.3 If we live in God’s wisdom, we sow righteousness and, we reap peace and God’s blessing. If we live in man’s worldly wisdom, we will sow sin and selfishness, and reap “confusion and every evil work.” Then, James gives a total of three character qualities that promote peaceful relationships.

1. True Wisdom Will Make You Gentle - This word (epieikes) refers to a sweet reasonableness & being fair minded. You will not be hard, stubborn, obstinate and difficult to get

along with. Along the same line:

2. True Wisdom Will Make You Willing To Yield - This word (eupeithes) means being open to reason and persuasion, and having a teachable spirit. Such a person is willing to hear all sides of a question, & admit when they are wrong.

This word also refers to a person who has a compliant disposition, who submits to discipline & authority. Such a person is easy to live with and work with. Proverbs 17:10 says, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool.”

3. True Wisdom Will Make You Meek – Back in v.13 James talk about “the meekness of wisdom.” Meekness (prautes) primarily refers to gentleness and submissiveness. In reference to animals, it refers to those who have been tamed. True wisdom will cause you to have a submissive & obedient spirit to God, & to others. The wisdom of the world says you get ahead through arrogance and self-assertiveness. But godly wisdom will cause you to be meek.

You see, when Jesus gives you wisdom, He doesn’t make you a wise-guy; He makes you a wise man. And wisdom never flaunts itself.

At first glance it seems strange that James would say the "fruit of righteousness is sown" because usually seed is sown. But harvested fruit also becomes seed for the next crop. The fruit of righteousness is sown again in peace by those who make peace [MacArthur].

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