September 18, 2015

Spiritual Wisdom Is Loyal, Pure and Self-less (Proper 25)

The Readings teach us the differences between human wisdom and spiritual wisdom. Human wisdom tends to be disloyal, adulterous and selfish. In contrast spiritual wisdom is loyal, pure and self-less. Jesus uses the example of a child. Children were not considered wise or important in that time. But children are closer to this ideal of loyalty, purity and selflessness than many adults. This is the kind of spiritual wisdom we are all to seek.

1. Spiritual wisdom comes from loyalty to God

We live in an adulterous and idol-worshiping culture that has largely abandoned it’s spiritual roots. About 10% of Canadians attend church and many are not even Baptized. I feel enormous failure because in spite of being wonderful men, none of my surviving children or grandchildren still attend a church. I blame irrelevant churches for this more than myself – as it is hard, even for an Anglican priest, to find a good church in our time. The consequence is that many – like me, have to discover spiritual wisdom on their own. My experience has been that we need to be in trouble before we turn to God and cry out for help

  • Good News is that the God of the Bible really responds
  • God can really be known and experienced personally
  • Knowledge from Bible reading, prayer, worship, fellowship and experience; leads to loyalty, purity, selflessness and wisdom
  • Loyalty to our Baptismal Covenant keeps us in relationship KEEPS US LEARNING WISDOM
  • Spiritual wisdom is the reward for perseverance and loyalty
2. Spiritual wisdom is pure

Jesus uses the example of a child as one who is pure in heart. A child has not yet become corrupted by human wisdom. The child has not yet been seduced by what James calls “selfish ambition” (James 3.14). The child has not yet experienced that fear of failure that tempts us all to cheat a little and take shortcuts.

  • The child has not become divided in his loyalties between what he wants and what God wants
  • Child has not become confused and false.
  • Has not become part of what James calls an “adulterous people” (4.4).
  • Purity is one of the essential qualities of spiritual wisdom.
  • Opposite of a human wisdom - to ‘go along to get along’.
  • Holiness or Purity is an essential Kingdom value
  • “The Prince” - a Medieval book of instruction by Machiavelli. “The Prince” is being instructed to flatter, lie, deceive and eventually betray those around him in order to gain power and prestige. .
  • Flattery, lies, deception, compromise and betrayal is unholy and incompatible with purity.
  • Our God cannot be where there is un-holiness / impurity

 3. Spiritual wisdom is self-less

Human wisdom is self-centred. Most of us tend to naturally think that we are the centre of the universe. This naturally leads to a focus on what we want. If we are fearful or insecure this desire can grow to a point where we demand things from others.

  • The Reading teaches us that fear and insecurity leads to conflict, deception, envy and bitterness (James 3.14).
  • In contrast those who have spiritual wisdom also have security
  • Know they are loved by God and forgiven
  • Spiritual Wisdom gives them strength to discipline their desires
  • Spiritual Wisdom gives them love for others.
  • Think of other people as children beloved of God,
  • Proverb 31.10-31 “The Wife of Noble Character” is read by every orthodox Jew over his wife at the beginning of the Sabbath – describes self-less love as trustworthy, doing only good, hardworking, being wise and caring for the poor

 James warns spiritual people cannot be “friends with the world”

This verse is now skipped over in the Revised Common Lectionary – an example of compromise by a spiritually unwise church committee?

  • Holy Spirit “envies intensely” (4.5).
  • The word ‘envy’ generally means to be jealous of something
  • Jealousy a sin but could also be arising from a great love.

If we can get past our human thinking we can begin to see how profound the love of the Holy Spirit is for us. When we ignore the Holy Spirit and become seduced by human wisdom we are rejecting the one who loves us.

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