The Epistle of James - Godly Values
Part 21 - Wisdom starts with humility
21st September 2018
Last time we began to look at this vitally important verse:
Last time, we looked at the mistake many (or perhaps all) Christians sometimes make, of excusing worldly wisdom, which is "ungodly wisdom", by calling it common sense. This time, we'll look at James's assertion that the fruit of godly wisdom is a good life, lived in humility.
Jesus explains in Matthew 15v10-20 that what's in the heart eventually determines what comes out of the mouth. If your heart is full of love, love will come out of your mouth. If there's grace and peace and gentleness and kindness and toleration and patience in your heart, that is what will come out of your mouth. And if there's anger, judgementalism, pride and party spirit in your heart then, sooner or later, that will come out of your mouth. If you're wise, with godly wisdom, your life and your speech will display that wisdom.
Surely wisdom is seeing things from God's point of view - seeing things as God sees them. God sees your brother and sister in Christ as being as important as you are, as valuable as you are, as worthy of protection and esteem as you are. Godly wisdom, therefore, will always esteem our brothers, never criticise our sisters, always welcome, esteem and celebrate all God's people, knowing that we are all sinners.
When James says "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it with a good life by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom" the emphasis is not on the deeds. It's on how you do them, because you can do a good deed in a good way, and you can do a good deed in a bad way. James is saying here that our wisdom - or lack of it - will be demonstrated by how we do the good deeds we do. That's the force of the Greek. I have said many times in my church that how we take decisions is more important than what we decide. And the way to have a good conversation with your brother is to be humble. Do not imagine for a moment that you have the right to judge your brother or sister, but rather listen with care and respect to every member of God's church, every one of God's children.
Jesus said, "by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13v35). Theoretically, we do love one another, but sometimes we judge one another or we criticise one another. I hope you're motivated by the idea of evangelism - of reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus. Hallelujah! You have opportunities to make a real difference in your community by sharing Jesus with your friends, neighbours and families. But they will only know it's genuine if we love each other.
I like to think my preaching makes some kind of a difference, but the people who come into my church and stay don't say they come because the preaching was so wonderful; they say they come because the welcome was wonderful - because the atmosphere was so wonderful. What really matters is that we love one another.
It's difficult to teach on the idea that wise people are humble people, because doing so doesn't seem like a humble thing to do. You have to be really careful. We're caught in a place where we know both our wisdom our humility are not what they should be, but we have to teach because we're called to teach.
James asks, "Who is wise and understanding among you?" I can imagine someone saying "Me, me, I'm wise, understanding. I'm the smartest person in the room, me". And then he notices that James says "Let them show it by... the humility that comes from wisdom" and he puts his hand down again. You may know the story of the church who gave its humblest member a badge for humility, but they had to take it away again because he kept wearing it! I once heard a Christian say to another Christian "I'm more humble than you are!"
What really matters is that when another Christian thinks differently, we say "Brother, I value you and esteem you but I see it differently", as opposed to "You idiot!" And if someone sees things differently and says so, we shouldn't attribute negative motives to them. We should just accept that they see it differently. We esteem one another, we value and include one another, and we're patient with one another. We can't love each other if we're proud enough to imagine we're better than each other, or smarter than each other, or wiser than each other.
Of course it must be true that some of us are wiser than others, because we're all different, but it's not for us to judge who is wisest. It's not for me to judge that I'm the wisest person in the room and everyone should listen to me. We must be humble. As Paul says, "Honour one another above yourselves" (Romans 12v10b).
We should be meek and humble because Jesus is. Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11v28-29). So our attitude to every Christian and every visitor to our church should be "Come, and we will give you rest", not "Come, and we will set you straight". There is a huge difference.
Jesus the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, King of the universe, is humble. That is arguably the most extraordinary statement in all of Scripture. I've got a lot to be humble about, but God made the universe and God sustains it. God is amazing beyond our imagination. And He's humble, so for us to be godly is to be humble. If we're to share the Gospel of Christ with our neighbours and friends, we must be like Christ - gentle and humble.
We can reach the lost by being the kindest, gentlest, most humble people in our town. The Holy Spirit is working us to make us so. And He will achieve it, if we will repent of our pride and live in humility.
That's real wisdom.