October 30, 2018

James 3:13-15… 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 and demonic.

            Worldly wisdom puffs up; Godly wisdom causes humility. Some years ago, I tried to get into investing in the stock market. I had a little extra money and I thought it would be a good way to improve my financial status. I was fairly thorough; I invested pretend money in certain stocks and watched them daily.  

            I read articles and books to decide whose advice to trust. I think I was possibly seeking worldly wisdom. At any given time, a different guru was the one to follow. It was highly speculative and very competitive. I was driven by selfish ambition. The wisdom of God produces good conduct. “Good conduct” is not necessarily a successful venture. A successful venture is not always the result of wisdom. Sometimes it is the result of hard work, sometime timing, sometimes luck. “Success” is a controlling goal. And it is a worldly one. We tend to want to hear the words of someone who was successful. A successful man might tell you how he worked the system and became wealthy. What he won’t tell you is what he gave up to do what he did. Sometimes the trade offs are substantial and the results are not desired.

            When I was building houses, my employees heard me say often… “I am not looking for perfection, I am looking for progress.” Perfection is a ruthless task-master. God’s wisdom leads us to good conduct and meekness. Would you rather be known as successful or a good person? Most people I know would say, “Both.” That can happen coincidentally. But, good people are not necessarily successful. One would hope that… but it is not always obvious. Choosing good conduct over success is not the American way. And that exposes a problem. The American way is not always God’s way. That will stumble some people, because we tend to think of America s a “Christian nation”. Biblically, the only nation that is God’s is Israel. The U.S. might be inferred but it is not named.