James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
Check out this passage:
Jas 3:13-18: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
Everyone is “wise”… to some degree, in some way. Wisdom is taking the truth that you know, filtered through the experiences you’ve had and then applying it both to your own life, and directly or indirectly teaching it to others (through word or example).
Everyone is “wise”. Just depends on WHICH wise, and HOW wise.
At the highest level, pure wisdom is whatever God says is true (through direct words or our ability to discover it).
On a personal level, wisdom is your personal truth (as you know it and have experienced) applied to life. For example, my teenage son recently had a car wreck. He was the passenger. Another car hit his door at highway speeds and almost killed him. His seat belt and an airbag saved him (of course we know God’s providential was what actually saved him). So now he is “wise” about car safety: wear your seatbelt, make sure you buy a car with airbags, be careful about pulling out into highway traffic.
He’ll teach this wisdom directly by telling other kids to buckle up and saying “look how it saved my life”. He’ll indirectly spread this wisdom by setting the example every time he gets in a car. It’s a truth he has learned that he now applies to his life, and shares with others about their life. Wisdom.
There is wisdom about life, business, relationships, marriage, family, money and spiritual issues. Each of us has “wisdom” on all these topics. To the extent it is based on truth, and then communicated accurately, it is a good wisdom that benefits all. Our wisdom will exist in degrees based on our experience, the time we’ve taken to learn and contemplate something, and how much we’ve tested out our conclusions in real life.
So, we ALL have wisdom whether we think we do or not. Name a topic, especially a broad life topic (God, politics, money, family, marriage, relationships, etc) and pretty everyone has their own idea about it. That is their “wisdom”. When that wisdom is expressed we call that an opinion. Wisdom is just YOUR knowledge about life and then your application of it.
Of course we all know, some people are wiser than others. What we mean by this is that some people are closer to the “truth”; some people have more experience, some people live out truth more consistently and some people are better able to communicate truth. A combination of these things is what we collectively call the “wisdom” of an individual. The closer to the truth (in our opinion) someone is, the more demonstrated experience they have on a certain topic, and the more effective they are at sharing it all is the degree to which we say a persona is more or less “wise”.
As Christians we apply another layer… we then judge the degree to which a person’s truth lines up with God’s Truth and we consider a person more wise as they come into line with God’s Word.
Okay, having said all that, what is the point. The point is, to be wise is a good thing. To share that wisdom is not only the right thing to do but a duty for us as Christians. God does not give us wisdom only for ourselves. He gives it so that we may share it among others.
There Are Only Two Choices
The key is this: there are two source of wisdom, two standards by which we determine if wisdom is truly wise, or just seems wise in our human eyes. Genuine wisdom, authentic wisdom, effective wisdom, wisdom that counts for eternity has one measuring stick only: GOD. To the degree our wisdom agrees with, illuminates and parallels the revealed wisdom of God… to that extent our wisdom is TRUE wisdom (as God measures it).
Period. That’s it. That’s the standard. Your choice: man or God. Those are the only sources of intelligence (thinking; wisdom). Pick one. Here’s what James says about it:
Jas 3:13: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (NKJV)
First, wisdom is bolstered and authenticated by how we live. You can’t speak words that are not backed up by how you live. Even if your words are wise, a life not lived accordingly will cause those words to be doubted, rejected or worse, seen as the OPPOSITE of the truth.
“John says marriage is sacred and you should be committed to your vows but look how badly he treats his wife and everyone knows he flirts like crazy…” Wisdom that is not backed up with good conduct is wisdom that will be ignored and rejected.
Jas 3:14-16: But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (NKJV)
There are two sources of wisdom, two springs, two origins. One is from the heart of man, one is from the heart of God. James doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about wisdom that originates in the heart of man… it is envious, prideful, self-seeking, sensual, demonic and confusing. Don’t believe him? Look around.
- Look at all the “wisdom” in the political world today. Self seeking? Envious? Deceitful? What a perfect example right in front of us all.
- Look at all the “wisdom” in pop culture today. Sensual? Evil?
- Look at all the “wisdom” of religion… talk about confusing.
The world is full of wisdom with a million voices telling you their version of truth. This is exactly why the Bible makes the choice so definitive: God or man. Pick your source. Man’s wisdom, just in case you missed it is: self serving, self seeking, self bias, self benefiting, self motivated… see a pattern? Man’s wisdom is always motivated by self interest because of our nature to look out for NUMBER ONE,.
Jas 3:17-18: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (NKJV)
These verses tell us why we want God’s wisdom, and what it looks like so we’ll be able to recognize it.
- Pure: unmixed with any other matter; free from dust, dirt, or taint; spotless, stainless; free from harshness or roughness and being in tune; being thus and no other
- Peaceable: disposed to peace; not contentious or quarrelsome; quietly behaved; marked by freedom from strife or disorder
- Gentle: free from harshness, sternness, or violence: delicate; moderate
- Willing to yield: to give or render as fitting, rightfully owed; to give up possession of claim or demand; quck to show deference to others; willing submissiveness to others
- Full of mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender; lenient or compassionate treatment; compassionate treatment of those in distress; charity, clemency, grace, leniency in disposition
- Good fruit: the effect or consequence of an action or operation; the life of a Christian should produce Godly fruit (Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9)
- Without partiality: wisdom that shows no favoritism to people because of their status or because of personal benefit to us
- Without hypocrisy: wisdom that is applied to our own lives as well
Evaluate your own wisdom, and the wisdom pronounced by others and see if it measures up to that standard. To the degree that it does, then you can safely embrace it as “wisdom from above” – God’s wisdom. This is wisdom that we can count on, that will truly make a difference, that will make our lives better, that will help us walk the Christian life in the most fulfilling way.
Most conscientious people want to be “wise”. Christians have a unique source of wisdom that is promised unconditionally:
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (NKJV)
It’s just like our good God to tell us we SHOULD BE wise, then turn right around and provide us with all the wisdom we can ever ask for (have you been asking?). God never directs us to do something or be something that He does not then provide for.
Wisdom… there you have it. It’s either fleshly or Godly. Now you know how to tell the difference and where you should get more.