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Attitude Matters: James 3:13-18

The Wake of Wisdom
Jamey Bryant


Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.—James 3:13-18 (ESV)

Data are facts. Put facts together, and you get information. Information stored and retrievable in your brain is knowledge, but wisdom is so much more. Today’s sermon teaches us that, beyond knowledge, wisdom is about the impact of our lives on other people.

Like a boat leaving a wake in the water, our decisions and actions affect people. James says godly wisdom is shown by our works, but how do we know if our deeds are godly? It helps to first rule things out. James says we can be sure we are not wise if our lives are filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Let’s start with that.
WATCH > the above video clip from the sermon

ASK > Is jealousy bad?

READ> Exodus 34:14

ASK > How is jealousy different in God and people?

Jealousy is 100% correct if you happen to be God. If you are not God, acting out of jealousy and selfish ambition results in disorder and “every vile practice.” James says the answer is found in meekness. Without meekness, we leave a bad wake and hurt other people.

Meekness (Greek “Prautēs”, translated as “gentleness” in Galatians 5:23) was considered weakness by the Greeks, but Jesus elevated it to a primary Christian virtue (Matthew 5:5; 11:29). Meekness comes not from cowardice or passivity but rather from trusting God and therefore being set free from anxious self-promotion.

ASK > Is the church ever guilty of hurting people? If so, how?

Wisdom is not what we know or say; it’s how we live. So, what does that life look like?

READ > James 3:17

  • True wisdom is primarily pure - not tainted by envy or self-seeking. If pure and undefiled religion means giving our lives away for the benefit of others, then true wisdom that is pure means faith expressed in love! It always leaves a wake of good works.
  • True wisdom is peaceable and gentle - It doesn’t insist or fight for its rights but is courteous and kind to others.
  • True wisdom is open to reason. The word means you’re willing to yield to others. It doesn’t mean you’re a pushover, but rather that you strive to be conciliatory.

James went on to say that true wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. More than just words, there are actions in the wake of true wisdom! And finally, true wisdom is impartial and sincere. The word “impartial,” in Greek, is the opposite of the double-minded man, who James says is “unstable in all his ways” - this person is single-minded, living with an eternal perspective. And “sincere” means “without hypocrisy”

What you see is what you get!

ASK > Who is the wisest person you have ever known?
What was it about them that made you think so?

The Bible has a lot to say about God’s wisdom.

Have different people look up and read the following verses: 1 Corinthians 1:21–24; Colossians 2:2, 3; Revelation 5:12.

ASK > Why do jealousy and selfishness cause confusion and evil things?

LIST > some things that God’s wisdom motivates people to do.

ASK > How does today’s passage challenge you to deal with conflicts in your relationships?

ASK > Why is it important for Christians to sow seeds of peace?

James 3:13 uses the unusual phrase “the meekness of wisdom.” The Greek word praos is widely used in the New Testament (and other ancient Greek literature) and describes an admirable quality of gentle and genial composure. Here are some examples:

READ > Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 10:1

ASK > How is it true of Jesus?

READ > Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 6:1; 1 Peter 3.4

ASK > How is it also true of us?
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