I have been thinking a lot about “wisdom” these days. Our modern American culture is seeking after many things—power, individual liberty, prosperity, equality, justice, security, survival, and a modicum of sanity. Yet, wisdom seems to be far down the list. Our political discourse is loud, opinionated, divided, and duplicitous; there seems to be little Jesus-shaped wisdom poking through.
Jesus’ brother invites us to consider two kinds of wisdom—worldly wisdom and “wisdom from above”—and choose which realm of wisdom we want to operate from within. Listen closely to James 3:13-18 (MSG):
“Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.”
Twisting the truth, and trying to look better than others or get the better of others…at each other’s throats—sound familiar? This is Facebook in 2020 which one pastor aptly calls “Satan’s urinal.” The real shame is how many Christians are choosing to add to the trough and even swimming the backstroke through it. Like Joseph being lured into a trap by Potiphar’s wife, we would be wise to follow his example and “tear ourselves away” from Facebook and run out of the social media out-house before it’s too late (Gen. 39).
Every day we find ourselves back in Eden standing before the Tree of Temptation faced with two types of wisdom. Will we choose to align ourselves with God’s wisdom from above? Or will we take and eat of worldly human wisdom that James warns us about—“animal cunning, devilish conniving?”
Based on what I’m watching and reading in the media, we’ve set up a buffet line at the forbidden Tree. We love being the arbiters of Good and Evil, usually defining “good” as whatever our tribe is propagating at the moment. Despite Jesus’ clear teaching, we love pointing out the dust particle in “the other’s” eye while we ignore the 8 foot log protruding from our own eye. To echo James, “This should not be!” (James 3:10)
But let’s now turn out eyes toward the Wisdom-from-above Jesus offers his followers:
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”James 3 The Message
This passage hardly needs commentary. Christians everywhere simply need to knock it off (repent), stop posting like verbal piranhas, and put down the poisonous apple whose rancid juice is dripping off the chins of our Facebook pages. We need to remember that the word “church” in Greek is ek-klesia—and means the community of people “called out” from the rest of the world and its ways. We are called to be a “holy people” which means “set apart” from the masses and devoted to a countercultural way of life.
Anybody interested in a Way of life and civil discourse that is more “gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings?” Anybody want to be part of a “healthy, robust community that lives right with God?” James says we can be the change and become that kind of compelling alternative society “only if [we] do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
Rise up, Church! We have work to do. Let us humble ourselves and ask God to help us “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” (Phil 2:14-15 MSG).
Grace and peace,