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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 31, 2012

James 3:13-18

  1. Verses 13-18. On last week we studied how we have to be careful in our speech. James went to great lengths to teach us that our tongues can be very dangerous if not kept under watchful care. He started his discussion by warning those who would desire to be teachers and preachers that the occupation comes with a higher level of accountability. In verse 1, James began this chapter by warning “wanna-be teachers” that they should keep silent. One of the main reasons these folks should not teach is because they would do it for the sake of their own egos, not for the edification of others. In other words, “wanna-be teachers” want to teach to show people how wise they are or how great a speaker they are. Some people can preach so well they can say nothing and it sound like something. Some don’t have much to say, but can say it in a manner that is pleasing to the flesh. In these cases the speaker appears to have a lot of wisdom, but this wisdom is not from God. This is the kind of earthly wisdom that sounds good, but has very little value to the spirit. There are two types of wisdom:

    1. There is a worldly wisdom that makes much of the teacher, of his style, and of the catchiness of his content. We see this very clearly in the church at Corinth. Some folks were gaining a personal following, resulting in division (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). Paul refused to employ this kind of wisdom, but rather determined only to preach Christ and Christ crucified (1:23), even though it was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1:22-25). These slick teachers were arrogant and taught their brand of worldly wisdom by means of deceitful and manipulative methods. Paul refused to employ such methods (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2). Worldly wisdom is from below; it is earthly, natural, demonic (3:15). God’s wisdom is from above. Worldly wisdom denies the truth, and in a selfish and boastful way, produces the fruit of “disorder, every evil practice, and destruction” (3:5-6, 10, 16). Worldly wisdom boasts of foolish things and things that are not edifying and sinful. Worldly wisdom tends to be mere words. Wisdom is not measured by degrees but by deeds. Not a matter of acquiring truth in lectures, but of applying truth in life. James is countering a culture of people who speak first and think second. The arrogance of the culture often led to fights and division. People thought it was fine to just speak their mind. As a matter of fact some people who were wise taught that you should just say what was on your mind. If that is what you felt just say it and let the chips fall where they may.

    2. Heavenly wisdom certainly uses words, but it manifests itself in godly works. Actions speak louder than words. The true wise person is not just wise in speech, but wise in action. Just like faith is dead without works, wisdom is empty if it doesn’t lead to wise and good deeds. The wisdom from above consists of God-given wisdom and understanding (see James 1:5) that produces the fruit of purity (see 1:21, 27), a peaceable spirit which is gentle and accommodating (slow to anger, 1:19-20), and which is impartial (contrast 2:1-3) and not hypocritical (see 2:15-16).

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