The book of James is filled with principles that can make our lives and relationships better – if we will follow them. The practices that help us follow these life principles we are calling life hacks, because a life hack is a new or novel way of doing something that is better than the old way. It’s a new practice that can improve our lives. Last week you heard that I love most kettle cooked chips, what I didn’t know – and here is an amazing life hack – you can freeze potato chips. I know, it’s crazy, and in my house there are never any leftover chips to freeze, but you can freeze chips and some people say that if you freeze flavored chips and eat them right out of the freezer that the taste is stronger.
Since communion is today, let me offer this life hack on getting grape juice or wine stains out of clothes. Soak the stain in equal parts of dawn and hydrogen peroxide and you will see the stain begin to lift. Or you can try pouring white vinegar over the stain which neutralizes purple and red pigments, then rub in some detergent and wash. If you spill on carpets, blot out the excess liquid and then pour salt on the carpet. The salt will pull out the stain.
With many of the life hacks we have offered, there is sound logic behind them. For example, the salt crystals absorb the stain out of the carpet and the vinegar neutralizes the red pigments. Sometimes there is science behind the life hack, sometimes it is just looking at something in a new way, like seeing a cup as a hand protector and not just something to drink out of, but with all of them there is a certain amount of wisdom, and James gives us a life principle that deals with wisdom. James 3:13-18.
James tells us that there are two kinds of wisdom in this world. The first is a wisdom that comes from above and this is the wisdom that comes from God. God’s wisdom is pure and leads to a life of humility, peace, and good works. But there is also a wisdom from below, an earthly wisdom, that James says is unspiritual and if we follow this wisdom our lives become selfish, chaotic, and can lead us into all kinds of evil and problems.
The wisdom from above is the truth that comes from God, and this can be found in the direction we find in the world of God, the example we see in the life of Jesus, and the strong promptings of God’s Holy Spirit that speak into our hearts and lives. While there are times we struggle to fully understand God’s wisdom, God has assured us that if we seek His wisdom, we will find it. If we ask God for true wisdom, God will provide.
The wisdom from below, this earthly wisdom, is found all around us. It is found in some of the wisdom or advice we get from people. While much of what we hear might sound good and even seem helpful, it doesn’t always mean that it is from God. If those sharing their advice and wisdom aren’t followers of Jesus, then we can’t be certain that their wisdom is from God. If people aren’t informed by the wisdom that comes from above, they can’t share with us God’s wisdom, and so even if what they say sounds good and reasonable, we can’t be certain it is from God.
We also hear earthly wisdom at work and again, while the advice and direction we receive might sound good it doesn’t mean it is from God. For a few months after college, I sold cable TV subscriptions door to door. I learned how to talk about cable TV in ways that would motivate people to sign up. I had one woman already to sign up. She really wanted cable and my boss and coworkers would have said that it would have been an easy sale. I could have done it, but then she told me that she needed an operation and she didn’t have money for both. The wisdom I learned from my employer would have said sign her up and let her figure out the health issues later. I couldn’t follow that wisdom, it didn’t seem right, so I didn’t sign her up, and began looking for another job.
Earthly wisdom in relationships says things like, if it feels good – do it. In finances it says, go ahead and buy it now, you can pay it off later. Earthly wisdom is found in advertising, music, sports, entertainment, and through all kinds of social media. There are subtle and not so subtle messages that bombard us in social media that shape our values and our decisions, in fact there are people called social media influencers because their presence on social media and the advice they give influence the decisions of others. All of this wisdom from below shapes our values and lives if we listen to it and follow it.
Earthly wisdom is also found in news and politics, and in many ways this is where it’s easy to see how earthly wisdom works. All across the political spectrum there are people who claim to have the answers to our social problems. There are dozens of options, solutions, and ideas that are coming at us all the time. Not all of this wisdom we hear can be right. Not all the news we get from either Fox or CNN can be trusted all the time because it is filtered through people who have their own unique perspective or agenda. All of these ideas and information and wisdom comes at us constantly and it doesn’t promote peace but chaos.
So we have news, politics, entertainment, social media, family, friends, work practices, peers, sports, and our own human desires shouting at our hearts and minds every day. We are inundated by messages that try to shape our thinking and our values and our decisions, and it is often this earthly wisdom that guides our lives, but if the wisdom is not from God, it is ultimately not good for us. To experience the life God wants for us we need to learn how to follow the wisdom from above and so here are the three life hacks to help us do that.
1. Stop… and care for others first. Twice James connects selfish ambition with the wisdom that comes from the world, so if we can stop thinking about ourselves first, if we can break the hold selfishness has on our lives, then the door is opened for God’s wisdom to enter and shape our hearts. Opportunities to serve and care for others are all around us, we just have to be willing to step out and take them. Most of us know someone who could use some support, love, and attention. If we will step out to care for them, God will reshape our thinking.
Coming back later this afternoon to high five kids in the hallway as they come to the first night of VBS shows families that we are a community that loves and cares for both children and Jesus. Praying for those serving this week at VBS is one way to care about others. All of you were so generous in your donations of snack crackers for Centre county foster children, but let’s not stop there, we will have a container in the back parking lot that will need to get filled to send to Belize to help people in need there. We can all play a part in this mission and this is one more way to stop and care about others first. Working at being less selfish and self-absorbed begins to reshape our thinking and helps us focus on wisdom from above.
2. Look… at what we have and not at what we don’t have. Wisdom from God says we are blessed, and that we need to be content with what we and have not constantly wanting more. What we need to do is learn how to be content with what we get and discontent with what we give.
The wisdom from God says that a good and faithful life is found when we learn to give ourselves away. God’s word says it is more blessed to give than to receive, and Jesus said, those who try to keep their lives will lose it, but those who give their lives away will find real life. In other words, true life is found not in what we get and accumulate in life, but in how we give ourselves away.
At the end of life, earthly wisdom counts up what we have gotten in life and directs where that will go, Godly wisdom considers what we have given. What we give are the treasures in heaven that ultimately make a difference. What is God asking us to give this week? Is it our time, our talents, our treasure? If we can give more today, and store up treasure in heaven? When we do, the wisdom that comes from God will shape our hearts and lives.
3. Listen… to God first. We live in a world with so many voices coming at us that it is hard to know who to listen to, so we have to set aside time every day to intentionally listen to God. Before we seek wisdom from family and friends, before we go searching for direction online or in the world, can we ask God for wisdom, and then listen to God in prayer? Can we listen to what God has shared with us through his word? Can we examine the life of Jesus to see the example that he has given us? Can we quiet ourselves and allow God’s spirit to speak directly to our hearts?
It is not easy to silence the voices around us long enough to listen to God, but we can. We can limit the influence of social media, limit screen time with ourselves and our children. We can stop listening to all the news and fake news which comes with its own bias and agenda. We can silence some of the voices around us and when we do we have the opportunity to hear more clearly the voice of God.
Our VBS theme is ROAR and it centers on the idea that while Life is wild – God is good. When life gets scary, when events in our life are unfair, in the midst of unwelcome change, and when tragedy comes and life is sad, the world offers its own perspective, advice, and wisdom, but the wisdom from God says this – when all of that happens – God is good. The wisdom from above says that God is always good and that God is always working for good in the lives of those who love him. God’s wisdom doesn’t say everything in our lives is good, but that God can use it for good, and that the God working in us is good. Can we quiet the voices around us so that we can hear the roar of God’s love and grace? At times God’s voice thunders like a lion, and sometimes God’s voice whispers like the wind in the trees, but we will never hear that voice until we silence our hearts and minds and learn to listen.
So to begin to hear and follow the wisdom from God, we need to stop. Stop living for ourselves first and break the grip that selfish ambition has on our lives. We need to look. Look at what we have and what we have been given and not just what we want. And we need to listen. Listen to God first. We need to silence the many voices around us so we can hear the roar of God’s love. When we do stop, look, and listen, it is the wisdom from above that shapes our lives and leads us to a life of God’s goodness and peace.
Life Hacks – Wisdom
There are two kinds of wisdom, one comes from above and one comes from below. Read James 3:13-18.
Wisdom From Above
Bible – Jesus – Holy Spirit
Politics, News, Entertainment, Sports
Social Media, Family, Friends, Work
Wisdom From Below
1. Stop. Stop and care for others first.
- Find one person to serve this week.
2. Look. Look at what you have and not what you want.
- Learn to be discontent with your giving by giving in some new way this week.
- Give a mosquito net to the VBS Offering to help eradicate malaria.
- Give to the Belize container project.
3. Listen. Listen to God first.
- What voices do you need to turn off so you can hear God roar?
- What practices do you need to start so you can hear God whisper?
- Commit time each day to reading God’s word.
- Make time in your prayers to be quiet and listen.