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Two Kinds of Wisdom, James 3:13-18

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How do people choose who is the wisest and most understanding person in a group? Do they choose the person with the highest test scores or most education? Do they choose the most popular person? Do they choose the person with the most experience? Do they get together a panel of experts? Let's find out what the Bible says.

Review. In our last study of James he outlined the danger of being idle with our tongues. Some people in the early church apparently had the problem of being know–it–alls. They were idle, and they set themselves up as being experts, especially in church matters. Probably these were respected Christians or no one would listen to them. In their idle talk they were teaching the people, and people listening to them would be affected by what they heard. Today we see in our reading there are two kinds of wisdom. What are they? James 3:13-18

Answer 1


Those who are know- it- alls are self-proclaimed experts. They think they have perfect understanding of situations and people. However, what does James say about this in James 3:13?

Answer 2


If we just think what happens when there are a group of “experts” in the news or in a boardroom or even on a playground, we come to understand how worldly people share their wisdom. They each think they have people and situations all figured out; but there is more to it, isn't there? Each person has a motivation or an agenda. What motivation do many people have according to James 3:14-16?

Answer 3


What does earthly wisdom lead to, according to James 3:16?

Answer 4


What are the characteristics of heavenly wisdom according to James 3:17 and what kind of questions should we ask before making important decisions?

Answer 5


What does James 3:18 mean? Contrast this with verse 16 for your answer

Answer 6


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)


Today's Bible memory verse:

James 3:18 "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (NIV)

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A1: earthly "wisdom" and heavenly wisdom

A2: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom, (NIV).

This verse gives us hope, doesn't it? We do not have to be the smartest or most popular or most experienced. We show we are wise by our good life, by deeds done in humility. This advice is in stark contrast to what the world advocates as wisdom.

A3: The source of earthly “know it all” wisdom is usually bitter envy or some selfish ambition. We want what someone else has, whether that is privileges, a position, or possessions. Worldly “wisdom” counsels us to find any way to get what we want; it is survival of the fittest. Sometimes we seek these things in malicious ways. For instance, if it is our ambition to bring someone down and lift ourselves up, we cause trouble for that person. Perhaps we talk about her, many times accusing her of having achieved things because she was the teacher's pet or had a rich daddy or had some evil motive. We may then gossip about her, and we may convince others to take action with you against her. In truth we often want what she has. Of course this example applies to males as well. James says this is earthly “wisdom” and is unspiritual (the real meaning is “sensual”) and of the devil. We try to achieve what we want and we will do all kinds of evil things to get it.

A4: Disorder and every evil practice

A5: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (James 3:17, NIV).

Whenever we make our next important decision, we should consider these questions meditatively, slowly, and individually:

  • Are our motives pure?
  • Will they bring peace?
  • Are they considerate?
  • Are they submissive to the will of God? Is there an attitude of humility toward others or are we exerting our own selfish will?
  • Are they full of mercy and good benefits for the people we know and for strangers?
  • Are we really impartial in our decision and sincerely truthful in our motives or do we just pretend to be so?
  • Is it our desire to make peace or to stir up trouble?

If our motives are really pure, peace loving, good and sincere, this wisdom is from God. This short list in James 3:17 is a good test to see if our wisdom is from God or is earthly, or even devilish wisdom.

A6: While earthly wisdom leads to disorder and every evil practice, if we sow peace using heavenly wisdom, we raise a harvest of righteousness. We will likely have peaceful friendships or other relationships, a peaceful home, church, organization, work or school environment and a more civil society.

Lessons to Live by:

  • You can be a wise person through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ (more...) and by applying his word to life's situations.
  • Let us be known for the wise and godly way we live, not for how worldly wise we proclaim ourselves to be.
  • Let's check our motives before we make important decisions or speak.
  • Our speech should be peaceful with heavenly wisdom whenever possible.

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