MS Week #32: Godly Wisdom

Brad Libolt speaking on James 3:13-18. He spoke about Godly wisdom that it is not inward focused but outward facing, that boasts in Christ and produces humble works. Reminding us that Christ was the perfect embodiment of Godly wisdom and died for our bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.

James 3:13-18


  • Jenna and I have been watching this show on Netflix, it’s called “The Great British Baking Show.” It’s awesome, everyone has accents and they are so nice to each other, and they make really awesome food. We’ve been watching the show for a little bit now, and I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned about “proving” bread, and how the gluten in the bread is like a bonding agent, so how long you “prove” it and let it sit determines the texture of the bread once it’s baked. Last night we watched one where they had to make bread with non-traditional flower so some people used spelt and other things so I learned about that. I’ve been gaining a lot of knowledge about baking these intricate and complex pastries and cakes and breads, but if you told me to bake something right now, I couldn’t do it. I may have the knowledge in my head, but there is no way I could apply that knowledge and actually go bake a loaf of bread and it turn out well. If I tried baking a carrot cake right now it would be a disaster, even though I just watched people bake carrot cakes last night.
  • That is what biblical wisdom is. It’s not just knowing something, but it is applying that knowledge and actually using it. When wisdom is talked about in the Bible, it isn’t just having a head puffed up with knowledge, but it is taking knowledge and applying it into our lives. John Piper defines wisdom as follows:
  • Wisdom is the ability of the soul to perceive God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-fashioned, people-helping ways to live, with the knowledge God gives us.”
  • There are a lot of words in there that you don’t need to get caught up on, but what I want you to see is that we perceive ways that are gospel-focused, and it comes out in the way we live. Godly wisdom is about living a life glorifying to God because of the knowledge God has given us. We don’t just learn about God and how we should live in his world, that’s not wisdom, we learn about him and then apply that knowledge and live in a different way. In a God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-fashioned, people-helping way. We use wisdom to tame our tongue.
  • Remember last week, we talked about controlling our tongue. And remember we talked about how difficult it is. If anyone could completely control their tongue, they would be perfect. So we know that controlling our tongue and using our powerful words is difficult, but James gives us some help. James is telling us the solution to our out of control mouths. We use wisdom.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

  • So he starts out with a question, just like always. So I’ll ask the same question of you: Who is wise and understanding among you? When you guys look at your life, the things you know and how you apply that to your life, would you say you are wise and understanding? Careful how you answer, because those around you can tell. Our wisdom can be judged by our good conduct and works. If we are living in a way that is glorifying God and exalting Christ then people are going to see that. People can see whether or not we have wisdom because of how we live our lives. And if you answered “yes” to James’ question, then you should rethink your answer, because when we are showing our wise works, we are doing it in a humble way.
  • Meekness means to be humble, so the first thing we need to know about godly wisdom is that it’s humble. Godly wisdom takes what we know and creates good works, a good life that people can see, but that is not something we boast in. When we are living wise lives, we must be humble about it, we must be meek. Godly wisdom produces humble good works.
  • It is good to check yourself for humbleness often. How awesome do you think you are? How great do you think you are at sports or school or video games? How funny are you how good looking do you think you are? It is so easy for pride to seep into our lives, and make us boast in our own abilities and accomplishments. Godly wisdom doesn’t do that. When we have godly wisdom, we understand that God has given us our abilities and accomplishments so we boast in him, and live our lives for him instead of ourselves. Godly wisdom boasts in who God is and what he has done, not in our own accomplishments.

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.

  • So we can check whether or not we have wisdom by examining our life, and seeing what kind of works we are producing. We can see if we are humble, if we are boasting in ourselves or boasting in God, to see if we have godly wisdom.
  • But, James says, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, then you do not have wisdom. This wisdom doesn’t come from above, in fact it is earthy, unspiritual, and demonic. That is pretty intense. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are incredibly dangerous. So what are bitter jealousy and selfish ambition?
  • Bitter jealousy is when you want something that someone else has so bad that you actually start disliking the person. When I played basketball in high school we played against a team that had this really good player. I was incredibly jealous of his abilities. I remember playing him and not liking him. I’d never met him or had a conversation with him, but I didn’t like him and became bitter towards him. He was better than I was, so I was jealous. We should not be jealous of what other people have or who they are. When we do that, we start to hate the person for no reason at all.
  • Selfish ambition is when we want something for ourself so bad that we will go after it no matter what it does to the people around us. Ambition isn’t bad, we should be ambitious for good things, but when our ambition becomes selfish so much that we neglect to see the people around us and how we are affecting them, then it becomes a problem. So figure out what you are ambitious towards. Maybe it’s sports, or school, or video games, or whatever else you may have a lot of drive to succeed in. Examine that ambition and determine if it causes you to forget about the people around you. Are you ambitious solely for your own gain? Are you ambitious just so you can get better, so you can achieve something, so you look good? That is selfish ambition, and does not come from godly wisdom.
  • The common thread between both of these is that they are all about ourselves. We are jealous because we want something we don’t have. Jealousy is all about what we don’t have, and that jealousy becomes bitter and we dislike people that have what we don’t have and our wellbeing becomes far more important than theirs. We have selfish ambition because we want to succeed so that people will notice us. Selfish ambition neglects those around you and focuses completely on yourself. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are dangerous because it is all about us.
  • Godly wisdom is the opposite of “me, me, me”, it’s a life that says “you, you, you”. The good works that prove we have godly wisdom, the good life and humility that shows we apply what we know to be true, this is all outward facing. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are inward facing, but godly wisdom is outward facing. It elevates the needs of others above our own. Look at verse 17.

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.

  • Wisdom from God produces purity, peace, gentleness, open to reason, mercy and produce good fruits. When you live wisely, with godly wisdom, you will live in a pure way. You will be peaceful and gentle, looking to love before looking to fight. You will be open to having reasonable conversations with people, and not be closed off to the concerns and questions of others. You will show people mercy and produce good fruits because of wisdom. You will treat everyone the same, and not show partiality towards those who might be different than you. You will be sincere and authentic, showing people you really care because of the way you treat them.
  • Everything that godly wisdom is, is the exact opposite of what bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are. Jealousy and selfish ambition point inward, and make things all about ourselves, but godly wisdom points outward and makes things all about others.
  • And look at verse 18, it says if we make peace, then we will see a harvest of righteousness. If we plant seeds of peace, then peace will grow into a field of righteousness, and righteousness is what we want.
  • And this is exactly what Jesus did. He had godly wisdom and used it perfectly. He lived in purity, was peaceful, gentle, open to reason. He was full of mercy and good fruits. He was impartial and sincere. He didn’t do things out of bitter jealousy or selfish ambition. He planted seeds of peace throughout his life on earth. He put others before himself and elevated their needs above his own. His life was outward facing, not inward facing. He was the embodiment of godly wisdom, and he is our example to follow. 
  • But we can only follow his example because of the sacrifice of Jesus. He paid the price for our bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. He died on the cross for our own inward facing sin, for our bitterness and selfishness, for our inability to live wisely. He died on the cross despite all the peace that he planted, so that you and I could reap the benefits of a harvest of righteousness. Because of his death, God no longer sees our sin, but he sees Christ’s righteousness covering us. And now because of this great gift or righteousness, we can live with godly wisdom. We can live lives that are outward facing instead of inward facing. We can put away selfish ambition and bitter jealousy and treat others the way Jesus did. But we can only do that because Jesus did it perfectly. He died for our sins, rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. Because of this, because of the gospel, we have the righteousness of Christ, and are seen as perfect in the eyes of God.

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