The following is a sermon about James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a written for an audience that speaks English as a non-primary language.
If we’re going to study James, let’s start with the warning in 3:1 about people who want to be Bible teachers. We can learn that I should not desire to become a teacher, so we already know I am a disobedient child by saying any of this.
In this passage, James teaches us about the wisdom that comes from God. He first shows us what wisdom should not look like. Then he teaches what wisdom should look like.
The most simple way we show wisdom is by doing good works with humility. This means doing good things for others and trying not to let them know it was you. Make it your secret mission to good things for others.
Of course, it is better to do good works, even if other people do know it was you.
Now, James explains the world’s wisdom. The world says that it is wise to do only what is good for yourself. The world says that you must try to be better than everyone else. They say you should brag about your accomplishments.
This is not truly wise. James is teaching us that wisdom and humility work together. Telling others about the wonderful things we have done does not actually help us.
When I have a job interview, I tell the employer good things about myself. This is okay. However, many of us act like we are always in a job interview. It is not always important to talk about what we are good at. We should also admit our weaknesses.
Heaven’s wisdom does not act like this. The devil brags about his accomplishments. The people of the world have to “show off”.
The wisdom from Heaven is humble. It does not have to be seen. Its good actions are hidden and secret. God is the only one who knows what the truly wise have done.
Is it your main goal to do better than others? God did not tell you to be someone else. God told you to be you. He created you differently from anyone else. He has a plan and purpose that only you can fulfill.
My wife is a wonderful woman. She has been given certain gifts and strengths. However, God did not have us get married so that I would become more like her. The same way, God did not create my wife to be more like me. We are both to be more like the people God created us to be.
Wisdom is not about being better than others. Wisdom is about humbly being like Jesus.
If your goal is to be someone else, you will be quickly confused. You will actually do evil things you never planned on doing. Only following God’s purpose for your life makes it possible to do truly good deeds.
So, how do we make wise decisions? When you are faced with a difficult decision, you should think through a list of questions.
- Is it pure? – clean, undefiled, with no hint of doing wrong
- Is is peaceful? – causes peace
- Is it fair? – thinks about the needs of others, gentle
- Is it obedient? – allows you to obey others
- Is it full of mercy? – help you help others
- Is it full of good fruit? – helps you do other good deeds
- Is it clear? – a certain decision
- Does it not pretend? – does not hide
When a decision matches all of these qualifications, you can be sure it is the right one. Mark this verse and come back to it when you have challenging choices to face.
One difficult decision my family faced was whether my wife should quit her job a few years ago at the book store. We had to consider the rules of James 3:17. It was pure. It was peaceful; no one was hurt. It helped her meet the needs of our son. It didn’t affect our ability to be obedient. It was merciful to our family. It has the good results of helping us do more as a family. It was clear and sincere. We had to make financial adjustments, but it was a good move for our family.
James wants to make sure that we know how important peace is. When we try to have peace in our relationships and decisions, it will help us do what is right. We argue because of our own sinfulness. We fight outside ourselves because we are fighting inside ourselves.
We need peace inside so that we can have peaceful relationships. This comes by doing the good works God created us to do.
One of the rules for wise decisions was to make peace. When we want someone else’s life, we do not have peace. When we want their possessions, we do not have peace. We have arguments and fights.
What is the solution? We are supposed to ask God for what we want, rather than being jealous. We should come to him before being angry with someone else.
One question we quickly ask is, “Why doesn’t God give me what I want when I ask for it?” James tells us, sometimes we have bad reasons. Sometimes we are not trying to serve others. Sometimes we want to be sinful. God won’t give us what we want then.
God will meet our needs, and our first need is for his love.
Finally, James summarizes his teaching. Obey God. This simple idea is all we really need to know. When we obey God, we are confronting the devil. The devil must leave us when we are in God’s presence.
Come close to God. We do this by obeying and praying. Pray constantly about everything. Believe that God is always close. Know that he is giving us his wisdom.
The wisdom from heaven is humble, pure, and peaceful. These all come from constantly being in the presence of God. Come close to him.