Upside-Down Community: “God Gains By Giving”

Passage: James 3:13-4:10
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Summary

Though we live in a culture that often encourages us to focus on ourselves, this Coronavirus challenge calls for a community of people who find their greatest gain in giving themselves away for the common good. In order to be a people like this, we need to be governed by a certain kind of wisdom, which James describes in this passage. James first describes the essence of this wisdom by contrasting it with false wisdom. True wisdom comes down from above, and is characterized by meekness—a self-giving, others-focused orientation of heart. False wisdom, on the other hand, is earthly and natural, and is characterized by selfish ambition. False wisdom ultimately leads to breakdown in a community because of its self-focus, whereas true wisdom, because of its self-giving nature, leads to a “harvest” of righteous acts for the good of the whole community. To get this “true wisdom” in our lives, we need change at the heart level. This change only happens when our hearts are won over by the beauty of the God who gains everything by gives himself away for us, “giving us more grace” even in the midst of our spiritual adultery.

Sermon Outline

  • The Essence of This Wisdom (3:13-17)
  • The Effect of This Wisdom (3:16; 3:18-4:3)
  • How to Get This Wisdom (4:4-10)

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide

Re-read the passage (James 3:13-4:10)

The Essence of This Wisdom (3:13-17)

Q) In the introduction, Ben mentioned that our culture encourages a self-focus (e.g., “self-love”, “self-help”, “self-improvement”, etc). Can you think of more examples of our culture’s self-focus? Is self-focus always a bad thing? Why or why not?

Q) In verse 15, James says that the wisdom characterized by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition is “earthly, unspiritual (lit. “natural”), and demonic”. First, why does it matter that this kind of wisdom comes naturally to us? And secondly, if it comes naturally to us, why is called “demonic”?

Q) In verses 13 and 17, James says that true wisdom “comes down from above”. What does he mean by this, and how does this influence the way we go about seeking this wisdom?

Q) In verse 17, James says that the wisdom that comes down from above is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”. Which of these characteristics of the wisdom that comes down from above is the most attractive to you and why? How does a focus on oneself make it hard to bear this kind of fruit?

Q) James teaches that the wisdom we’re governed by will become apparent by our “conduct”. How has this Coronavirus trial been revealing to you the wisdom that governs your life? (give a specific example if possible).

The Effect of This Wisdom (3:16; 3:18-4:3)

Q) In James 3:16, and 4:1-3, James highlights some of the effects that self-focus can have on a community (note: the leader can list off some of these effects)…Where have you experienced an individual’s self-focus leading to breakdown among a group of people—whether a relationship, family, a church, a whole community, etc?

Q) When have you experienced a self-giving orientation leading to flourishing in a community?

How To Get This Wisdom (4:4-10)

Q) Ben said that coming to be governed by “true wisdom” requires a change at a heart level. Why do you think this is?

Q) God is the ultimate example of gaining all, by giving everything away. In what sense does God himself “gain by giving?” How does worshipping this God make us self-giving people, without making us moralistic or self-righteous about it?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangible care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?


Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.