Verse 5 says, “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”. God’s desire is that we are close to Him, but have you ever felt like you were growing further and further away from Him? Did God move away? Of course not. God is holy, faithful, unchanging and true. If we are far away from God, we are the ones who have moved. Separation can happen very gradually. Pride fullness slips into our lives and we think we can take care of things ourselves. Maybe we spend less time in prayer or seek God fewer and fewer times until we finally are not seeking God at all. We are using our best practices and leaving God out of the equation.
James says “repent”. To repent is to humble yourself before God. Be miserable, mourn and weep…recognize who God is and submit to His authority and holiness. The only way we can have a right relationship with others is to be in right relationship with God!
The Lord told Moses to speak to the rock, not strike it. That is, Moses was to request, not coerce, and water would flow. Jesus said to knock – not force your way in – and the door would be opened. The way of the Lord in heaven and earth is the ask. To ask is to humble yourself before the one to whom you are making a request – or in Moses’s case, even before the thing to which you are making a request. James points out that the kind of exchange that often passes for “asking” is actually a type of manipulative sleight of hand which seeks only to benefit your own desires without thought for the welfare of another. When you ask, you make possible a fellowship of joy born of giving and receiving.
Re:Verse passage –James 4:1-12 (day two) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. vs. 10
Humility is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of faith, and likely one of the most difficult to genuinely master. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that “pride goes before destruction…”, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the we are called to humility. It makes sense when you read and follow the teaching of Jesus, but lived out we find ways to complicate it. Humility requires complete submission. Being right, being heard, being understood, they don’t matter. Surrender does. We can’t be humble with strings attached. It’s phony and gets us nowhere. True humility understands that our success is not dependent upon an outcome, a scenario, or a vote of confidence. Humility sees only the feet of Jesus as our gaze is fixed to him alone.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. vs 18
Depending on what translation of the Bible you use, the english word “peace” shows up over 300 times. Some translations even have it over 400 times. What should that show us? Peace is important to God. Among some of these references, God is described as “the God of Peace” (Romans 16:20). We are promised His peace will guard our hearts when we are anxious (Philippians 4:7). In our passage today, we see that the byproduct of heavenly wisdom is peace (James 3:18). Scripture is clear that God is the source of peace, and those who are near to Him exude His peace.
The enemy thrives in conflict. Our world seems to thrive on conflict too, but God has given us the tools to be peacemakers to the conflict we are immersed in, we need only to draw near to Him.
James describes earthly wisdom as unspiritual and demonic. That’s strong language, but he is not just being dramatic to drive the point home. Nor is he suggesting that a demon is behind every unwise decision. For James it is a matter of origin, and in that sense, earthly wisdom is indeed demonic.
Like a spring fed river, earthly wisdom has its source, stretching back all the way to the Garden of Eden. The serpent (a demon) suggested to Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would make them wise like God, able to discern between good and evil. They supplanted God, the true source of pure wisdom, with their own. Their wisdom, is our heritage.
In Jesus, we have the opportunity to shirk off our unspiritual heritage, and tap into the true source of all that is good and pure; exchanging the unspiritual for the spiritual, and the earthly for the heavenly.
Re:Verse passage – James 3:13-18 (day five) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
How do you control your tongue? (that part of our bodies James previously describes as dangerous and potentially destructive) The question that James ushers to our minds in the previous verses in chapter 3, is answered in our Re:Verse passage this week.
I love James’ perspective on this seemingly abstract subject. In his teaching, wisdom is not abstract it is tangible and visible. It can be “shown”. Wait! What? Yes! Wisdom is meant to be seen before it is heard. There can be evidence of wisdom. James teaches that this evidence is ultimately behavioral rather than intellectual. Knowledge and understanding are important but are clearly demonstrated (according to James) by “good life” and “humility”. Wanna find wisdom (from teachers/leaders/friends? Look before you listen.
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. vs 18
I often remind the kids at the church that sin is whenever we do things our way instead of God’s way. It is as simple as that. God’s way is perfect and good, and our way leads to destruction. You can see this contrast in most everything we do from the way we prioritize our life, to the way we parent, to the way we view our politics. The list could go on and on. The world constantly tells us to go one way and God tells us to go another way. As followers of Christ, we will often find ourselves at odds with what the world tells us is the way to go.
Here in James 3, we find another example of the world’s way of things (sin) and God’s way of things (perfect). There is wisdom from above and wisdom from below and James describes the end result of both of them. Again, we have contrasting views of wisdom from God (above) and the world (below). Wisdom from God is perfect and good, leading to a legacy (or harvest) of righteousness, while wisdom from the world leads to destruction.
So, where does your wisdom come from? Do you seek the Lord or the world in your thoughts and deeds? What harvest or legacy does your wisdom leave?
“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above…”
As always, James remains practical. Theology is present, of course, but what is out front here is actual speaking, responding, planning, noticing, allowing, supporting, and allying. These actions are what we talk about when we talk about everyday life. The ideas in your head are not everyday life. You might desire that your Christian ideas give shape to the way you live, but that’s not always the case. It’s possible to ally yourself with those who do evil even as you verbalize your own intent to do good, for instance. In that case, the “wisdom from above” does not inform your alliances. James will not let you get away with choosing right ideas at the expense of right living. Such an arrangement is at the heart of what James calls “earthly wisdom.”
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. vs. 17
Sounds a bit like the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t it? Wisdom comes from a place that few of us access often enough. Agenda-driven motives tend to cloud the heart of wisdom. It is not enough to use knowledge when we are motivated by self-interest. To be wise is to be truly humble and submitted to a greater purpose and design. Not only do most of us not operate from that place, but we are untrusting of people when they speak to us. We often are looking for the angle, what are they trying to get out of me. This crazy cycle of selfishness and mistrust is not Kingdom-minded, and is not true wisdom. To be truly wise is to be more concerned about others than yourself. May we all pray that we act in wisdom, and receive it when offered.