1 Oct 2020
We have been looking at practical wisdom and advice from James. The first sharing focused on trials and their effects on believers. Next we looked at the subject of wisdom.
We continue to look at wisdom – we now consider how godly wisdom is worked out in the lives of believers and also note the negative characteristics of earthly wisdom at the other end of the spectrum.
We have noted that the quest for godly wisdom is the quest for Christlikeness. As we grow in godly wisdom and conformity to the image of our Lord Jesus, it should affect our perspectives, attitudes and relationships in life; these various values are in fact the manifestations and characteristics of godly wisdom.
James pointed out how believers in humble circumstances and those in high positions should look at themselves and their status (1: 9-11). The former should rejoice in their ‘richness’ in Christ whilst the latter should realise that their wealth and status is only temporary and would fade away. Godly wisdom would learn to look at people and their status in society from God’s point of view. The Lord God looks at the hearts and not at the external appearance and the value of an individual is seen in the light of how God values him or her (5:1-6).
Understanding this, if we are truly wise in the eyes of God, we should not practice favouritism or negative prejudice or bias in the treatment of various ones based on their standing in society and their wealth and status. We should not treat someone very well just because he or she is rich and holding ‘high’ positions in society and conversely, we should not ‘look down’ on the poor or those who are at the lower end and status in society and treat them badly. We must remember that God sees all things including our motives and behaviour and He would judge us accordingly. It is before Him that we have to give an account.
Another manifestation which clearly reflects whether we have godly wisdom or are foolish in God’s eyes is the use of our tongues (speech). James pointed out clearly that our tongues can be used positively to bless others and glorify God; they can also be ‘harnessed’ to cause much evil, ‘setting a fire of worldly evil’, corrupting the persons who used them indiscriminately and damaging greatly the lives of others. We can praise and curse man at the same time with our tongues – James declared that this ought not to be and the wise use of the tongue would flow forth from a heart that is right before God! (3:3-12)
Are we using our tongue and speech in a manner that promotes edification? Is there much discretion and prudence in the ‘words’ which come forth from our mouth? Or are we practicing earthly and demonic wisdom in sowing friction, misunderstanding, quarrels, jealousy, envy and all kinds of evil and disorder with our tongues? Do we delight ourselves in ‘gossip’, even to the point of slander and being a ‘judge’ of others? Have we forgotten that God is the only one judge before whom all of us have to appear to be judged? (4:1,11-12)
On the opposite scale of the use of tongue is how we listen and act. James exhorted the believers to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19). On top of this, it is essential not only to hear the ‘Word’ but to do it. “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (1:22). One who claims to be godly and wise and yet “does not bridle his tongue” only deceives his heart and his religion is worthless (1:26-27).
We see how communication reflects the state of wisdom in our lives. The way we use our tongue and speech, the patience we exercise to listen and to understand what God and others are communicating – these are marks of either godly wisdom or worldly demonic wisdom. From out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks. Does it speak edifying godly words or does it defile the hearers? Biblical and godly truth impart spiritual life; lies and distorted truth cause spiritual death. Are we learning to grow in godly wisdom in meekness and in reverential fear of the Lord God?