September 27, 2015 / Pentecost 18
James 3:13-18 / God’s Wisdom
Have you heard that the muppets are back on TV? I love the Muppets! For those who remember the show, do you remember the song, “Being Green” by Kermit the Frog? He went on to sing that it was difficult being green, the same color as everything else, like plants and trees. I don’t know about Kermit, but I think that it’s a lot more difficult being a Christian.
Christians have it tough. We have a tough schedule and lifestyle. We have to get up on Sunday morning or get here late on Monday evening. We maybe stay for bible class. You have to come to church on festivals like Christmas and Easter. You take some time out of the day to do devotions. You pray at mealtimes, at home and even at restaurants. It seems like Christians can’t do any of the fun stuff that the world is so fond of. You can’t drink too much, or have sex before marriage, have affairs with people outside of marriage, whether that be porn or not. You have to be nice to people, even people you don’t like? Oy! It gets to be a lot.
On top of it all, people make it seem like Christianity is simply idiotic. Great philosophers have mentioned that religion is simply a crutch for the weak minded. I had a conversation with a young man once who asked me, “You actually believe that stuff? I like some of the Bible stories, but the other literature in the Bible, like the idea of hell, seems stupid and mean.” Is that really what Christianity is? Are we stupid for being Christian? Are we not wise in the standards of lofty education? Who is wise among us?
Am I wise? Sometimes my family may call me a “wise guy,” but that is something entirely different. Am I wise? Well, wisdom is putting correct knowledge into proper practice. So, I may be wise in certain regards, more on the minimal side of things in life, like finding a good deal or maybe knowing how to manage my way through a city.
But other than that, I’m not wise. I’d be foolish in a lot of ways. I’d be foolish to car people. Tell me to change the oil and I’d probably take out the catalytic converter. Or, I may be foolish to those who go hunting, because my biggest hunting experience is the Big buck hunter game you’ll see at a restaurant. I would wonder why mountain lions, deer, moose, and mountain goats aren’t all coming across my path at one moment. I’m foolish to the Literature gurus, who can pull quotes out of their hat and analyze the intentions of the author in that given context. Hemingway, Dickens, Keats, and Chaucer? Nah, I’ll just stick with my Calvin and Hobbes comics, even though Calvin is very philosophical. You can see that I’m foolish in a lot of respects and I’m sure you could say the same about a lot of things in your life.
But, the wisdom of the world operates with a different kind of wisdom, the wisdom of our sinful nature. Our sinful nature loves to boast about the evil that it does. People boast about their drunken escapades at Oktoberfest, sexual conquests, dishonest get-rich schemes, it boasts about the damages it causes to people or property. The funny thing is that it denies that it is doing anything wrong. When unbelievers do these things, we can almost understand it. But far too often the siren songs of “Me first!” come from our own lips. We put ourselves at the center of the universe. James uses the words “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” to describe those thoughts that world has and that creep up in our own lives. James is trying to tell us, “Stop it!” That’s spiritually unhealthy because selfish ambition and jealousy are from Satan. It’s time to get real people, because we have a lot of things working against us as Christians. Satan plays hardball.
However, we don’t define wisdom liked the world defines it because God doesn’t define wisdom based on worldly wisdom. God defines wisdom as something that comes from heaven. It is a spiritual wisdom received through faith. That’s kind of awesome when you think about it. We may or may not be wise in the world’s eyes, but we are more wise than you could ever imagine. We understand why things are the way they are: Why things in this world can’t get better, or why people die. We know the answer to the question that everyone wants to know when they die: what’s on the other side? Our little children in our day school are wiser than the smartest people out there because they know Jesus. Jesus is the one that brought that wisdom to us. That wisdom is a knowledge of peace. That peace doesn’t come from a pope giving lengthy shallow speeches to the United States Congress about rainbows and some utopia he hopes for the world. Peace doesn’t come from that. Peace comes from knowing what God has done for us.
Growing up, I really liked to shoot off fireworks. You know fireworks aren’t necessarily a peaceful thing, especially if it's the middle of the night. How about dynamite? That’s not really a peaceful thing. But when it was first invented, it was created to be an explosive that could move rock to build roads or buildings. It was supposed to make life better and easier. Unfortunately, people used it for destructive purposes like killing people and for war. The inventor of dynamite was Alfred Nobel, yes the founder of the Nobel peace prize. Irony isn’t it? Nobel was so depressed that his good invention was being used wrongly, he took an absurd amount of money and put aside. He began to award people for promoting peace. He wanted to see people bring about peace after the destruction he had indirectly and unwilling brought to the world. Sometimes, peace sometimes comes through destruction.
But long before that, our world had seen much worse destruction, the sin of our parents. Adam and Eve brought death upon us all. Here’s the kicker: God brought us spiritual peace through the death of his own Son. That peace is what gives us hope and motivation in our lives. Just like Nobel wanted to see people bringing about peace, God wants to see our godly actions, because the ungodly actions ruins us. Equally as bad: ungodly actions stop the Gospel from being spread.
Well, that would be the last thing I’d want, so how do I do this? How do I show this wisdom? You might be wondering, “I’m not that wise when it comes to the bible. Especially with my background, I’m not that wise as far as leading this godly life.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all struggle with the realities of sin in our lives. Maybe in the past we have burned someone or even gotten burned with our heartlessness. God knows this. Jesus saw it in person with his disciples. Just listen to the gospel lesson. Jesus is talking about his impending suffering and all the disciples can talk about is the glory they expect to get out of it.
Am I wise? Am I understanding? I could definitely answer no to those when examining myself. But, at the same time, you can’t help but see those who are wise around us. They would be the models to follow. Do you see a Christian that you look up to? Model their behavior. Ask them what they do, why they are that way. But I’m sure I could answer that for you.
It’s because model Christians dive into God’s Word and they see the forgiveness that is theirs in Christ. What does Jesus always say? Remain in me and I will remain in you. Go to God in prayer in those difficult moments. Go to God in prayer as you read through the bible and see how God’s people had it just as bad, if not even worse than us. But the love and compassion of the Savior is a thousand times deeper and more profound than we know! He didn’t cast them off; he doesn’t cast us off either. Forgiveness is yours, even when you mess up. Even when you are the farthest from wise, or peace loving, or gentle. The fact that you know you are forgiven, the peace that you have knowing that someone loves you when you feel unloveable, the peace that comes from knowing there is a God who is in control when you feel out of control, now that is peace. How can you not smile when you come to that realization? How can you not want to be the best you can be at your job, or your role in your family? How can you not reflect that love to the people around you?
James instructs us so well on this idea of wisdom. Notice how he singles out humility. Humility is essential. It naturally rests on the humble attitude toward God. It is that lowly attitude of the heart which is full of gentleness and humility toward others. A person may know a lot, may display great learning and other impressive qualities, but if humility is missing, true wisdom isn’t present. The child of God seeks to help others so that they might have peace in this life and be led to Jesus for eternal peace.
God’s wisdom is your wisdom. That's better than what you thought wisdom really was! We often think of wisdom as someone who is really smart and that they can apply that knowledge. We would think it's being street smart and book smart. Here, James shows us that wisdom is so much more than your mental capacity, or your IQ, or your ACT scores, or SAT scores, or whether or not you even graduated from high school. Wisdom has to deal with knowledge from God and how that knowledge is reflected in your heart, and reflected in your actions. When love is reflected in your lives, don’t be surprised that you are wise in God’s eyes! Amen.