We Have Been Given Wisdom From Above

Text:  James 3:16-4:6

In today’s text James says that we have been given wisdom that is from above.  The wisdom that James speaks of is not from the world, nor wisdom that is from our personal experiences or classroom studies.  The wisdom that James is speaking of does not come by our effort, nor does it come by our age.  Rather this wisdom that James is referencing is from ‘above.’ 

Now, we believe, teach and confess that we as people of Christ do not have salvation that originates in our hearts or abilities, but we have been given salvation that is from above.  In other words, when Jesus says to Nicodemus in John chapter three that he needs to be born again, very literally Jesus is saying to Nicodemus that he needs to be born from ‘above.’ The source of our salvation is outside of us in Christ; it does not originate within us.  It is also the same way with wisdom.  Our wisdom is also from above.  This wisdom is revealed from heaven and does not come from the human heart.  The Holy Spirit through the Word is the one that teaches and give us this wisdom.  This happens as we are faithing in Christ and His work on our behalf.  We are given this wisdom as we are shaped by the Word of God, as our sinful nature is killed and we are daily resurrected in the Gospel.  It happens as we die daily and are raised anew in Christ each and every day.  This wisdom is a gift. 

Now, let us take a moment and examine this wisdom.  This wisdom of God in the first place is pure.  There is nothing fishy added to it.  But more specifically, this wisdom seeks the welfare of others.  This wisdom isn’t concerned with me,

myself and I but focuses on the need to serve one another.  This wisdom teaches that we ‘give in’ for the sake of another person.  This wisdom teaches that when we are driving that we don’t have to cuss out the other driver when we are cut off.  This wisdom teaches that an employee can carry out his boss’ demands without sputtering under his breath or talking behind his back.  This wisdom teaches that student don’t have to put down a loner classmate in order to stay in the popular opinion of friends.  This wisdom teaches that siblings don’t have to argue about whose turn it is to pick up the living room or clear off the table.  This wisdom is real, not some abstract idea.  This is the wisdom that James wants all of his readers to have. 

When we think about this wisdom from God, we can all agree that this is the way that it simply should be.  When we think about this wisdom from God there is a sense of peace which causes us to say, “That wisdom is good.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have this?  It would be like heaven on earth.”  So, why aren’t things peaceable?  Why do our world or even our church and families not live in this blissful state of wisdom that is selfless and all serving?  The reason being, we follow empty wisdom. 

This empty wisdom only yields a life full of bitterness, envy and selfish ambitions.  It is not heavenbound but earthbound.  This empty wisdom is not of God but it is of Satan.  It is not of the Spirit but it is unspiritual.  This empty wisdom springs forth not from faith that receives the Word.  This empty wisdom brings about disorder, evil, disunity and chaos.  More specifically, this empty wisdom teaches us to look out for the needs of self.  It says to look to our own cravings and to do whatever pleases me, myself and I.  The disorder and evil that comes from empty wisdom can be seen in government, business, the church and the home. 

But where does this empty wisdom come from?  This empty wisdom cannot be traced to a profound philosopher.  It cannot be traced back to an idea that was cultivated by a particular culture.  Rather, this empty wisdom can be traced right back here to this church.  Yes, right here in our midst we can find the origination of this empty wisdom.  The source of this empty wisdom comes from you and from me.  James is addressing the readers and us by showing us that we have been given wisdom from above but we then so easily become snared in empty wisdom.  He is confronting the reader that he has been plunged into empty wisdom.  My friends, realistically we have three enemies that literally bombard us with this empty wisdom.  The Devil, the world and our own sinful nature attempt to point us back to the spring of empty wisdom and that is our own desires, ambitions and cravings. 

But how do we know when we are drinking the Kool-Aid of empty wisdom.  We can most be assured that we fooling the ways of empty wisdom when we hear and see words like, “Me, myself and I” as a basis for why we do what we do.  When the opinion, motive and reason for our emotions, actions and identity are “me, myself and I” we are captive to empty wisdom which will most assuredly bring about division, war and conflict. 

In fact James gets right to the point.  The reason for the divisions, conflicts and disputes in the church is because of sin.  This empty wisdom goes the way of the sinful nature.  Anytime that there are divisions in the church it is due to sin.  Anytime there are divisions and conflict in the family, in the government, in the work place and in your life it is due to sin and following empty wisdom.  The temptation for all of us is to point to anything but ourselves for the reason why conflict and disputes exist.  We want to blame others.  We blame our spouses.  We blame the culture.  We blame our history.  We blame others.  We try to shift everything away from ourselves.  This is the way of empty wisdom.  Empty wisdom teaches us that the problem is outside of us and that the solution lies within us.  Whereas the scriptures show us that the problem is within and the solution is outside of us in Christ.  Even in marriage counseling when one of the spouses is responsible for 95% of the problems I will look to the other spouse and say, “You are still responsible for 100% of the 5% that you have contributed.”

Now here is where it gets interesting.  It makes sense doesn’t it that conflict arises from people wanting to fulfill their own desires.  It makes sense that there is peace and harmony when everyone seeks the good of one another.  Right?  So, the temptation for you and me is for us to think, “I better not give into my own cravings and my own desire and I better work harder at loving others.  I better stuff my feelings, shut down my wants, and try to do more good stuff to others.”  What has just happened here?  We are looking to ourselves!  No may this never be my friends.  James says that God opposes the proud.  Believing that you can stop going the way of empty wisdom and go the way of God’s wisdom is spiritual pride!  You can’t do it.  God opposes this arrogance.   What needs to happen is that our sinful nature that curves us inward on ourselves needs to be crucified.  We need to die.  Our selfish desires and our self-centered ideas need to be put to death.  That old sinful nature needs to die today, tomorrow and every single day.  We need to be brought to repentance and humility confessing, “Lord God have mercy on me a self-centered person who drinks the Kool-Aid and buys into the ideology of empty wisdom.” 

My friends, God does have mercy on you in Jesus Christ.  In fact for you and I He gives grace.  God opposes the proud.  But in our brokenness of sin He gives grace.  Hear the Gospel!  God forgives you and me who are centered on self.  For you and I as children of God there is an avalanche of undeserved grace.  God desires to draw you and me ever closer to Him to gift us His love, grace, forgiveness and wisdom.  God want you and I not bound up in the deception of empty wisdom but as His children bound up in His grace and mercy given to us because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. 

Think about this now!  Paul says that we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm in Christ Jesus.  Everything!  We have grace upon grace.  In Christ we are given the wisdom of the Cross.  We are given wisdom that says, “You have been freed from the condemnation of Hell and Satan.  You have been ravished by the forgiveness of God in Christ.  You are God’s son and daughter.  You are accepted, accepted, accepted through the blood of Christ.”  This wisdom then goes on teaching us saying, “God has done absolutely everything that is necessary for your salvation.  You need to do nothing except receive what has been done for you!  Given such a great God who has overwhelmed you with riches beyond number—why should you not freely, joyfully and with all of your heart and with an eager will serve your neighbor?” Wisdom goes on to say, “You can serve all, because you have been served.  You don’t have to worry whether a person is a friend or an enemy or worry if they are going to be thankful or not.  Rather you are free to spend yourself and all that you have.  Don’t worry about whether you squander your love towards those that are ungrateful.  Don’t worry about yourself.  You are forgiven.  God has taken care of your salvation for you!  Relax in His grace.  Rest in the promise.  You are freed to get your eyes off of yourself.  God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does.  You are completely free of everything so that you can be completely attentive to the needs of all!” 

You my friends have been given Christ and wisdom from above.  All of this is yours.  Amen.

Sources:  Sermon Series on the Epistles: Series B (NWP) ~ The Freedom of the Christian (Luther) ~ Commentary on the New Testament: James (Lenski)