Take 5 (November 3-7, 2014)

take5Tim Abraham • Chief Operating Officer

Two Types of Wisdom (James 3:13-18)

Monday: Oh, Yeah? Prove it!

James 3:13

The bright lights of the television set are bearing down on two contestants. The host engages them as the studio audience claps and gasps. The first confidently claims, “I can name that tune in five notes.” Undeterred, her opponent counters, “Well, I can name that tune in three notes.” “Oh, yeah? Prove it!” the first retorts. The pressure mounts as the first three notes of a song cascade through the set. All are watching to see if the contestant can back up his bold claim. In today’s verse, James is challenging his contemporary Jewish Christians—and us today—to back up the claims we make about our faith. If we say we are followers of Christ, James commands us to prove it. Instead of shouting out a song title, our response is how we live. The fruits of our faith are our words and actions that flow from humility born in wisdom. Do your fellow contestants (those whom you interact with daily) and the studio audience (God and others watching you) see you backing up what you claim? Or, do God and others see your words and actions falling short of your claim to be a Christian?

For Today: Back up your Christian claims with biblical words and deeds.

Tuesday: Wisdom that ISN’T Wise

James 3:14-15

Last holiday season, almost half of American shoppers bought gifts online. Have you ever ordered something online thinking you were getting one thing only to be disappointed when it arrived? Did the item look and sound like it would solve your problem, yet it turned out to be worthless and of no help? In that same way, we also think having wisdom will solve all our problems. In today’s verses, though, James tells us that some things we think are “wisdom” are actually far from it. He implies that actually two types of “wisdom” exist: God’s wisdom and man’s “wisdom.” James describes this second type of “wisdom” in the strongest negative terms possible: earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. That’s not wisdom at all! As Christians, we need to realize this “wisdom” actually comes from our three enemies (see Ephesians 2:1-3) and flee from it! We can’t do that, though, unless we rid ourselves of envy, jealousy, and selfishness. If we do not intently keep our focus on Jesus Christ by turning towards anyone or anything other than Him, we begin to place the focus on ourselves. We are then replacing God’s true wisdom with a counterfeit “wisdom” that isn’t wise.

For Today: Keep your focus on Jesus and rid yourself of man’s counterfeit “wisdom.”

Wednesday: Who’s on First?

James 3:16

Most of us can relate to the famous Albert and Costello skit “Who’s on First?”. Maybe you were talking to someone, and you both couldn’t get each other to understand what you were trying to say. Or, you sat back in a meeting and let the rest of the group try to talk over one another, while no real work got done. In today’s verse, James tells us to expect the same result when we are characterized by the “wisdom” rooted in jealousy and selfishness discussed yesterday. When we try to move ourselves ahead of God in selfishness, disorder and confusion naturally follow. What’s worse, though, is the inherent evilness of our scheme. We are trying to act contrary to God and His sovereign design and order. Let David’s words in Psalm 34:16a remind us: “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” If our hearts are full of pride as we focus on ourselves, we can expect to be found in confusing and evil situations.

For Today: Focus not on the outside confusion and evil around you, but set the inside view of your heart on Jesus.

Thursday: Wisdom that IS Wise

James 3:17

Think of opposites: black or white, low or high, dead or alive. In contrast to the darkness of man’s “wisdom” that comes from the earth below and ultimately results in death, today we see James describe God’s wisdom as holy, coming from above to give us life. God’s wisdom is true wisdom. It is free and separate from everything but God, which makes it pure and holy. Note that the first characteristic or fruit of God’s wisdom is that it’s peace-loving. Peace is the opposite of chaos and disorder! We can be peace-loving only if we rid ourselves of the jealousy and selfish ambition that characterize man’s “wisdom”. If we do, then we’ll be considerate of others before ourselves in a spirit of submission to God and mercy towards others. In practice, our deeds and actions will produce good works with a sincere heart in the Holy Spirit, impartial to how others may treat us, because our aim is to glorify God alone.

For Today: Love God, love His wisdom, be obedient to Him, and love peace.

Friday: Peace, Love, and Righteousness

James 3:18

A common cry heard throughout the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s was “Peace, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!” I’m guessing that many who were shouting this anti-war slogan at music festivals didn’t realize how close it is to the biblical principal James describes of peacemaking. Just replace “Rock ‘n’ Roll” with “Righteousness.” If we work to bring peace to relationships and situations in love, then, according to James, God will provide righteousness and blessings. Well-known Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe summarizes it best: “The Christian life is of sowing and reaping. … What we are is what we live, and what we live is what we sow. What we sow determines what we reap. If we live in God’s wisdom, we sow righteousness and peace, and we reap God’s blessing.”

For Today: Live by the Holy Spirit and in God’s Word, sow a life of a peace in a spirit of love, and enjoy the harvest of righteousness.