Wisdom from above, wisdom from below
by PASTOR MARK LOVE
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace,” James 3:13-18 (ESV).
Because the devil’s very nature is pride, we are all by nature vain, conceited, proud and self-willed.
No one is born meek and gentle. However, some are wiser than others in their own eyes. When such people struggle with spiritual awakening, then God’s Spirit indeed can humble them and God’s chastisements can keep them humble. In general, sooner or later they will come forward with their wisdom. Such wisdom is offered for the sake of the others and the church. What is unknown to such wise ones is that what they call wisdom; God’s calls foolishness and idolatry for it rests not on the whole council of God. Inasmuch as it has not the unifying power of God’s Word, it soon begins dividing those God has made on in Christ. Such wise ones think that they alone have the eyes to see the flaws and defects of the church and its members. They believe themselves called and obligated to correct and improve the church. So certain are they in their ideas and wisdom that if others do not follow where they lead, it confirms their wisdom rather than making them question it. Such wisdom is born of our sinful pride and as such creates “envy and self-seeking.” It causes many in the church to be tossed to and fro from this idea to that, causing “confusion and every evil thing.”
Such sages of wisdom are not easily persuaded, for while they would never admit it, their attitude, words and actions convict them of “knowing it all.” They appeal conscience, declaring that they cannot bear this or that. One must marvel as such a sensitive conscience! Yet one must ask to what is the conscience sensitized to: God’s Word or their own holy ideas?
What blessed meekness, gentleness and unity would be manifest if such wise ones’ consciences were sensitized to the peril of those caught in their sin? If such people took the sins of others in the church to their conscience with Christ’s love, they would have something to do besides complaining about others and sowing seeds of division, confusion and conflict.
The Lord tells us, “Do not boast and lie against the truth.” Such behavior is not “the wisdom that descends from above” for “that wisdom is pure,” not mixed with the devil’s spirit of pride that rules one’s sinful nature.
How does such withholding of fellowship and participation with the saints of which Christ’s has made them one make for peaceful union in the Christ and His bond of peace?
This text presses on to ask, “Is it reasonable, meek, gentle or willing to yield” if one refuses to take part with the saints in worship and service of our Lord because the saints do not manifest enough holiness and perfection to warrant such participation.” Only sinful pride could blind such a person to the fact that they have no holiness or perfection apart from what is freely given them in Jesus Christ.
Does not the baptized believer willingly give God’s Word its right to speak, to have the final say in all matters of forgiveness, fellowship, unity and participation in the Body of Christ? Is not the baptized believer willing to be corrected by the Word of God that they may receive God’s forgiveness?
Only sinful pride prevents such reasonableness, meekness and willingness to yield to the Word of God. Those who have this “wisdom that descends from above” lives by faith in meekness and willingness. They sow peace and reap the blessed fruit of unity and fellowship in Jesus Christ.
What is so often forgotten is the glorious power of the blood of Christ to create this bond between God the Father and fellow believers. This blood of Christ cleanses each of us of our sins and sinfulness. This blood of Christ prefects all our good works. The blood of Christ saves us from our wisdom and that of the world. This blood of Christ seals us with the forgiveness and favor of God. This blood is the price paid to bring us back to God and back to each other. This blood is our life-blood with God and with one another. As there is no forgiveness of sins where there no shedding of blood, neither is there unity and fellowship with this blood that bonds us to God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—AND to one another.
Gracious and loving God, help each of Your children that none of us withdraw ourselves from Your grace, Your Word, Your worship. Let not seed or root of sinful pride grow up in us and create confusion and conflict, lest these works of the flesh harm others. Give to each of us the “wisdom from above,” let us by faithful and right behavior show our unity with You in works of wisdom’s meekness and gentleness.