Our reading of the book of James has helped us understand the following ideas:
We’re often waiting for God to do something super while God is waiting for us to do something natural.
The spectacular happens when we act in faithful obedience to God in three areas:
There is another way to sum up what James is teaching us and it is illustrated by the following story:
The Priceless Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price
(Matthew 13: 44-46)
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
[Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 359–360.]
James As a Wisdom Book
Most valuable in the book of James is what he calls the wisdom from above.
The entire book of James is commanding readers to apply the wisdom from above.
Prayer Gives Us Access to Wisdom
The end of James’s letter invites us to see prayer as an all-encompassing solution to life’s difficulties.
- God does not always respond to our prayers with the .
- Sometimes He responds to our prayers with wisdom that, when applied, produces spectacular .
- In fact, the whole book of James is a book of wisdom for a time of trouble.
- While God has the capacity to answer our prayers directly, sometimes He answers them with wisdom.
- God can answer our prayers with something instantaneously miraculous or He can address our problems with wisdom—producing results that are no less spectacular.
Growth Requires Participation
Because if God did everything for us we wouldn’t grow.
As James says at the beginning of the letter [James 1:4]
You need to be faithful to the things God tells you to do because the answer to your prayer is often found in your own .
Wisdom From James Providing Guidance for Zoe
Maturity in the Lord results from the application of what James calls wisdom from .
He contrasts that with what by comparison can only be known as the wisdom from below.
Understanding the Wisdom from Below
Two key qualities of wisdom from below:
- The nature of the wisdom from below is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic”
- The expression of the wisdom from below is “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.”
Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition correspond with economics and politics.
- Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are expressions of wisdom from below.
- Economics and politics are collective of wisdom from below.
Jealousy, selfishness, economics and politics are all based on one principle: .
The principle of scarcity comes from the three lies communicated to Adam and Eve in the garden:
- God is not to be trusted.
- God is withholding something from you.
- You are responsible for supplying your needs.
- Jealousy and selfish ambition are the sources of disorder and every vile practice.
- Jealousy and selfish ambition are primary causes; disorder and vile practices are secondary causes.
- By way of analogy: jealousy and selfish ambition are the trunk and roots; disorder and vile practices are the branches.
- Economics and politics are the primary cause; racism is a secondary cause.
- Economics and politics are the trunk and roots; racism is a branch.
- Biblically speaking, what is racism?
- A vile practice.
Racism As a Vile Practice
Race is a secondary issue that has taken on a life of its own.
What is race?
Race is a symbolic .
Race is not about the actual color of your skin, but about the symbolism of your body.
Race turns the human body into a symbol of class status.
“Every year brings with it multitudes of this class of slaves. . . . if their increase do no other good, it will do away the force of the argument, that God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right. If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters.”
–Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
While race is symbolic, its foundational motivations are economic.
Race is not real, but its impact on people’s lives is.
The precise impact is a source of debate.
Guidance From the Wisdom from Above
As we learned from James, God has wisdom for us for every moment and every situation.
One caveat about God’s wisdom is that he hides it.
Yes, God hides things—not from us, but for us. (Proverbs 2:6-7)
God hides His wisdom in such a way that there is no way for you to get it unless you grow.
Acquiring the wisdom to address racism will require us all to grow.
Given the context, this passage is clearly about how we behave when we are engaged in conversation with people whose options we despise.
A Lesson on How to Treat People Who Express Opposing Views
Peaceable, Gentle, Full of Mercy and Good Fruits
- Be kind.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Look beyond their faults and find their needs.
Pure and sincere
- Your only motive is to pursue the truth in love.
- You value the truth over being right.
Open to reason, Impartial
- You know that God hides wisdom in the mouths of your adversaries.
- You are humble enough to receive wisdom that comes from someone with an opposing view.
The Future of Our Church
Diversity of thought
Breaking Rule Ruts
Having Access to Uncommon Wisdom
Producing Uncommon Results
The Big Three
- Arts and Entertainment
- Business and Entrepreneurship
- Science and Technology
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2022