A few years ago a prominent politician, while trying to score points with supporters, said in a disparaging manner, that the opponent’s supporters were, “clinging to their guns and their religion”.
The whole point being that their supposedly wise voters wouldn't be religious,
and that the truly enlightened folks were not so gullible to all this, “God stuff”.
And it is not just politics,
even in our everyday lives at school, work, and even our civic service,
our faith is often seen as childish, unsophisticated, naive, or even, foolish.
Believe it or not, when my son was in cub scouts,
I was disinvited from saying table grace at our annual Christmas banquet
because the scout master heard concerns from some parents
that I might be so bold as to pray in Jesus name, which would offend the nonreligious in the room,
despite the organization's supposed values
of teaching young men to serve both God and country
in an honorable way according to their faith traditions.
But this is nothing new, nor should it be unexpected, as we have proof of these sorts of reactions in our texts for today.
In the Old Testament, Israel was constantly under attack due to its worship of only one God.
And James is speaking to New Testament disciples and believers
who seem to be courting favor with unbelievers by acting just like them.
Which means, they are acting like pagans and idol worshippers.
Now, some of you who are familiar with Paul will say,
“yes pastor, but in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says,
“for by grace you are saved, not by works.”
therefore, as long as we have faith we cannot be condemned to hell.”
to which point I would say, “true. But your point is made in the wrong direction.”
You see, all action is born from faith,
and our faith is the wisdom from above.
Therefore, the one who has wisdom from God acts in a godly manner.
Here's what I mean:
if you believe in something you support it, promote it, and encourage others to participate.
If you were to ask Don about dry cleaning
he would tell you about his business
and invite you to try Youngs cleaners.
If you asked Ron where to get a good burger or ribs, he would tell you the Ground Padi.
They wouldn't send you to a competitor,
nor would they tell you to not clean your clothes or refrain from eating out.
So, why is it then, that the people of God
worship and make sacrifices at other altars, or avoid his presence altogether?
And not just in Bible times, but today, as well?
While we may not have a temple dedicated to baal or molech here in New Orleans like in James's day,
and while none of you may go to Buddhist temples or mosques,
nonetheless, each of us is tempted with idolatry all the time.
Anytime we put our trust in something else over our trust in God
that thing becomes a new false God in our lives.
Moreover, when we stay away from God and his word,
we are also saying we don't trust him;
That we are just fine without his word and his sacrament of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
And, even if we refrain from external, physical, man-made idols,
we have probably, instead, made an idol of ourselves
and of our own ability to save our self.
And that is the most unwise thing to do.
And if we are honest with ourselves that becomes self evident;
once the hammer of the law has smashed us to bits.
When we realize there aren't enough hours in the day to do what we need to do.
When we realize we cannot be all that we hope to be in life, especially when it comes to our interactions with others.
And if we are truly introspective,
we will see over and over where we put ourselves before others,
but most importantly, before God.
But it is the wisdom of faith,
which is given in proportion to the strength and size of our faith,
which moves, directs, and leads us into acts of faith.
when we heard Jesus point out to the father that it was a lack of faith that prevented healing of his son,
it was increased faith that the man prayed for,
over and above healing for his son.
Faith is like the laws of motion which state, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
When the believer's faith is challenged, they lean just as hard into that faith to survive.
And when the believer does those things which grow faith,
such as worship and reading scripture,
then that expanded faith leads them to greater acts of faith
and God leads them into situations where that stronger and deeper faith may be displayed for the world to see.
You see, whether it's under stress, or its flourishing, the wisdom from above which is given by faith, will never be defeated, embarrassed, or put to shame.
That which we do as a result of our faith,
no matter what the world around us tries to say about it,
will always give glory to God,
even if it's only seen by him
and even if only his angels and the saints in Heaven are singing their praise.
Therefore, you and I can be bold to be wise in our faith by living godly lives filled with good works
which, perhaps, the world won't care about or even receive with thanksgiving, but who might actually ridicule.
For instance, there are hundreds of agencies run by believers
whose sole purpose is to save a precious life by helping mothers
of unwanted, unborn, children to find homes for their babies,
rather than ending their lives prematurely by chemical or surgical intervention.
Yet, there are worldly forces who decry these agencies as inhumane
because in their worldly wisdom,
the emotional trauma caused by carrying a baby to full term is too great.
yet they say nothing of the guilt and loss and shame endured by the millions and millions who went through that sort of procedure.
The world in its wisdom, instead tries to normalize what is unnatural,
while vilifying a woman's natural inclination to nurture and care for her child,
even to the point of discouraging women to carry to term
and giving the baby to someone else,
so that it might have a better life.
Where the follower of Jesus who has wisdom from above sees death as the greatest enemy
The World in its warped wisdom sees death as the cure to life, as part of a never-ending circle.
We could go on and on till I gave illustrations that each and every one of us could identify,
by which the law of God would show us just how foolish we are and how far we have strayed from his path.
But then Jesus gives us the gospel; That he forgives all and makes all things new.
Moreover, that his sacrifice on the cross was for all of us,
even the worst of us,
even the least of us, as he brought a child into his sermo.
Children in the 1st century were pretty worthless.
Some Romans wouldn't even name their child till their first birthday or later,
so that, in case they died,
they wouldn't be so attached to them.
But Jesus makes the point that the least here on earth are the first in his Kingdom.
And that means that in His Kingdom filled with holiness and perfection,
God loved sinners so much that he provided a way for them to become righteous.
And he did that by sending Jesus to the cross
so that you and me could be freed from the flawed wisdom of this world
which preaches greed, selfishness, and power.
Instead, he gives us wisdom from above
which preaches love for God and others,
generosity and hospitality toward all,
and service to others as the demonstrations of faith.
Are you wise? Have you been given wisdom from above?
That's a question each of us can answer for ourselves as we examine our actions.
Do I worship God each week and read his word daily?
Do I love God with all my hearts and my neighbor as myself?
Do I offer my help to all and do I give from my blessings instead of from my leftovers?
As we ask ourselves these questions
I'm sure each of us will find we are lacking in some, or many, ways. Because we are sinners.
But I am also sure that, by the wisdom from above,
when we realize this,
we will repent of our sinful past and pray to God
that he will forgive us and give us faith to work away from that past
and into a new life of faith,
with trust in him, and his ways.
May this time of reflection and exploration be a blessing to each of you
as you allow this wisdom to transform you,
as well as those around you though your service,
for all eternity.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.