DON'T GET IT TWISTED
Biblical Text: James 3:13-18
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
If someone were to ask you, "What is wisdom?" how would you reply? It's easy to misunderstand wisdom, especially when the temptation is there to twist and adjust wisdom to your own personal definition. Our desire should be to pursue TRUE wisdom, the kind that produces a world in which mankind can live in love, joy and peace, and have all their needs met.
It's easy to twist true wisdom. Ask all the know-it-alls in the world. It's not hard to get to the place where you think you know more than the preacher, or your teacher, or your boss, or your spouse. Just ask James. James was one of those writers who didn't hold back. He put enough needles in this haystack we call the Epistle of James, to prick the conscience of every dull, defeated, and degenerated Christian in the world. His book is designed to exhort and encourage; to challenge and convict; to rebuke and to revive. But in these verses of our text, James is also trying to set some things straight. In these verse, James describes a practical holiness...a wisdom for all ages, which drives the believer toward the goal of a faith that works.
So what is wisdom? It's no surprise that James doesn't want us to get it twisted, because for a while, he did. As the half-brother of Jesus, James grew up in the same household with Jesus. But he did not believe Jesus was the Messiah until after His resurrection! It was only then that James became a strong leader in the Jerusalem church.
So James poses the rhetorical question, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?" Before you raise your hand, let me tell you what the term 'wise man' means. It comes from the Greek word sophos which means teacher. A teacher was considered to be a religious expert, skilled in spiritual knowledge. He was the rabbinical priest, the one entrusted with preserving and interpreting the Word of God.
Who are the bearers of wisdom in our church? You would think they would be the ones who study the word diligently; who take their spiritual leadership role seriously, and seek to preserve God's Word for the next generation. But James says, "Don't get it twisted. There's more to it than that!" James teaches us that "If you want to be a teacher, you don't just have to KNOW some things; you have to DO some things." James teaches us that wisdom is measured more by deeds in the community than by degrees on the wall. It's not a matter of just acquiring knowledge; you have to learn how to apply that knowledge to your daily life.
James gives us three life lessons in these few verses of our text.
First, practice what you preach.
There ought to be a display of morality and purity in your life. A wise man knows how to conduct himself like a Christian. A man who professes himself to be a Christian, must learn how to take the facts of the Word and apply them to his walk. This is necessary in any field or profession.
- What good is a lawyer who knows the law, but does not know how to apply the law to win cases?
- What good is a doctor who knows all about medicine, but does not know how to apply that medicine to save lives?
- And what good is a Christian who knows the Word of God, but does not live according to the Will of God?
A person who knows the Word of God inside out and backwards is nothing more than a smarty-pants, a know-it-all. But a believer who knows the Word and lives the Word is truly wise. James says that if a believer claims to be wise, "Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."
I like the way Jesus put it. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." (Matthew 7:24).
So practice what you preach, brothers and sisters. But then...
Second, no phony-baloney.
A believer should not be "the great pretender". You see, you can go through all the motions of being a Christian; you can be faithful to worship, and missions, and Sunday School. You can smile at everyone and "walk circumspectly in the world" as a good Christian should, not participating in anything that is outside the will of God. You can appear to be the epitome of perfection, while all the time you are inwardly seething with jealousy, disappointment and resentment.
James says, "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." In other words, don't try to wear an outer cloak of holiness, when all the while you're incensed and irate on the inside.
Anyone can pretend to be spiritual when he's really nothing more than a "wise guy". A real wise man knows Christianity is no game of Show and Tell. He doesn't wear his Christianity like a coat to hide his true feelings. You may know someone like that. You may know someone who goes to church faithfully, participates in ministries, and gives generously to the work of growing God's kingdom. He appears to be wise in the ways of God, but something is wrong, because as soon as he gets home, he's complaining about something or someone, stirring up trouble, burning up the phone lines. James says, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."
There is never an occasion when envy and strife become appropriate behavior for the wise Christian. Yes, there is such thing as righteous indignation, but in the same sentence that we are told to BE ANGRY, we are told to SIN NOT! (Ephesians 4:26) Correction, therefore, must always be applied with love.
James says that bitter envy (in the Greek: erithian, which means 'zealous jealousy') is Satan's trap. It lures the unsuspecting Christian into tainted territory where strife is the order of the day. It is our duty as followers of Jesus, to reject bitter envy, and the subsequent strife it fabricates, and replace it with love and humility. That's the Christian way.
We can't pretend our way to the throne room of God. True wisdom desires to be replicated in the life of the believer. Envy and selfish ambition can only produce disorder, confusion and evil. A wise man does not seek glory or gain. Instead, he is gracious and giving. God needs a few real Christians who desire, not only to BE wise, but also to LIVE wisely.
So, practice what you preach, and please...no phony baloney! But there's one more lesson to be learned.
James says, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James teaches us that when peace is sown, it yields a harvest of righteousness. A true wise man, then, is a man of peace.
I like that phrase 'without partiality'. Did you catch it? There is nothing I loathe more than a Christian who shows favoritism. He saves his 'good fruits' for his closest friends or family, and gives the rest of us his leftovers; leftover energy, leftover monetary gifts, leftover kindnesses.
- Grumpy toward your spouse, but pleasant with the boys.
- Grumpy on the job, but happy after hours.
- Sweet toward the pastor, but crabby toward your spouse.
- Meek at mission meeting, but quarrelsome in your kitchen.
James says in the first chapter of his letter, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). A person who is unstable is inconsistent, not steadfast, not dependable, shaky, unsound and insecure! The true sign of a stable mind is someone who treats everyone the same.
- He is the same with his neighbor as he is with his mother.
- He is the same with his barber as he is with his children.
- He is the same with his pastor as he is with the guys he invites into his man cave to watch a game.
- And lest we leave the ladies out, she's the same at the beauty parlor as she is at church meetings.
A peaceful person is impartial. He or she treats everyone the same; gives everyone the same benefit of the doubt; gives everyone his best effort; prays for everyone; encourages everyone. Hes the same...yesterday, today, and always...because he reflects the Christ he vowed to replicate.
How is peace promoted? It's promoted in every aspect of our daily lives...
- Peace in the kitchen
- Peace in the family room
- Peace on the job.
- Peace in a traffic jam.
- Peace at church business meeting.
- Peace in our walk and peace in our talk.
James says we ought to be 'easy to be intreated'. That simply means that we should be easy to persuade, easy to calm down, easy to make compliant. There's another word for it...it's called SUBMISSION. When we submit ourselves, one to another, we work together as one cohesive unit.
I know the world is a crazy place. I know it toys with your emotions, stretches your last nerve and pushes all the wrong buttons. But Jesus said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
Who are you going to believe? James eventually came to realize that his half-brother was the Messiah they had all been waiting for, and he lived the rest of his life believing in the teachings of Jesus. In the end, he didn't get it twisted.
Don't YOU get it twisted. If you want to be truly wise, understand that wisdom is of God, not man. If you have godly wisdom, you will...
Love the Comforter who never leaves.
Mirror the Rock who never moves.
Follow the Shepherd who never fails.
This is your mirror moment. Who will you reflect?
Don't get it twisted!