September 23, 2012Pentecost XVII
Fr. Philip Eberhart
The Gift of True WisdomClick Here for Audio
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
“If anyone lacks wisdom…”Could we have a show of hands please? Anyone who lacks wisdom? Raise your hand!!!
“If anyone lacks wisdom… he or she should ASK our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT)
Wisdom: A Definition – The ability to discern what is true, right or lasting. “common sense”; “good judgment”; “the sum of learning – knowledge”; “wise teachings of the ancients”; a wise outlook, plan or course of action.
As described in the entry in this: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language … AND YET – When I went to look up “WISDOM” in this: The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge – its not in the index! Nowhere to be found.
Yet in here (Bible) it is EVERYWHERE TO BE FOUND!
Hebrew word is used 153 times in the OT and the Greek word 51 times in the NT.
Interestingly, its first appearance is after the words “Spirit of” - Hmmmmm.
A Spirit of Wisdom
That seems in line with what James is claiming: Wisdom is from ON HIGH!
Sometimes SKILL from ON HIGH – as in the case of Bezalel in EX 36 – the Spirit-filled craftsman who oversaw the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
Moses instructions to Israel in DEUT 4: “See, I have taught you statues and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me… Keep them and DO THEM, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples.”
As Moses passed on the mantle of leadership to Joshua, he prayed for him and once again we hear “Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom…”
When Solomon was made king, he asked God for a Heart of Wisdom (2 Chron 1:10) and “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.” (I Ki 4:29)
Job asks the question of the ages: Where does wisdom come from? And he answers the question as well: 28:28 “Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;”
And rightly we hear in the voice of God, with his dialogue with Job:
38:36 Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind?? [ME! OF COURSE.]
David in Psalm 51, the famous prayer of repentance: v 6 … You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Ps 111:10 … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all who DO HIS COMMANDMENTS; His praise endures forever.
And 35 times in Proverbs, the attributes of wisdom are outlined, in fact it is the stated purpose of the whole book
1:2 to know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding!
1:2 to know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding!
The Lord gives wisdom… with the humble is wisdom…
… wisdom is with those who receive counsel …… wisdom … is to understand [your own] way
… wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding
… the rod and reproof give wisdom…
Isaiah describes the Messiah in these terms:
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of wisdom, held in humility and with constant reference to His Father and obeying the dictates and directions of His Father, on a moment by moment basis.
He understood and said on two occasions the “wisdom is vindicated or shown by its actions.” Wonder where James got it? Perhaps he was listening or at least watching his older brother! Even in his own hometown and among his family and friends they asked the question, “Where did this man [Jesus] get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? (Mt 13:54 & Mk 6:2)
Wisdom was a mark and necessary attribute of early church leadership. Stephen, the first martyr was said to have irrefutable “wisdom” (Acts 6:10)
Wisdom was much sought after in the Greek culture – a kind of wisdom that flew in the face of the Wisdom given by God, so much so that Paul said, “I came to you not in wise speech, but in a demonstration of God’s power, that your faith might rest on God’s power not on the wisdom of men.” And later (1 Cor 3:19) “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”
Later in the same letter, Paul aligns the true wisdom of God with the other Gifts of the Spirit to the body of Christ. Wisdom as a word, given by the power of the Spirit; the application of knowledge to life’s issues and directions under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If you remember, when we began to talk about the book of James, I said that it was a form of NT “wisdom” literature - in the style of the books of Job, Psalms and Proverbs in the OT.
So here in our reading from James 3 this morning we have probably the clearest word picture of what Godly wisdom is about and how it is acquired!
Listen to The Message here:13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
And from the NKJV:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. …
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Listen to all the descriptors:
Willing to Yield
Full of Mercy
and Good Fruits
JB Phillips ends this way:
And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves.
These read like the lists in Galations of the Fruit of the Spirit! Why? Because it is!Exactly!
The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Wisdom.
We get the Spirit of God by coming to Him in “fear and trembling.” As the writer to the Hebrews has said, Since then we have been given a kingdom that is “unshakeable”, let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our ‘God is a burning fire’.
Wisdom comes to us through discipline, by God. Earlier in the same chapter, the writer of Hebrews reminds us, ”10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
And so we ask God to lead us into the way of HIS wisdom. A life style that is lived in reference to Him and to His words and ways, in the “fear of the Lord.” AMEN!
May we pray:
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.