Wisdom is knowledge and good judgment based on experience. James tells us in Chapter 3 of his epistle that there are two different kinds of wisdom earthly and heavenly. Earthly wisdom is judgment based solely on the immediate and temporal. Many people today think it is wise to pursue the stamp of the world's approval by getting a higher education. They buy insurance against possible losses. They may flatter others in order to climb higher on the social ladder. Or even lie to avoid the consequences of wrongdoing. Man says, "If I'm wronged, I must get even." Christ said, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil." Man says, "Accumulate all you can because you're only young once and you have to live it up while you can." Christ said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also."
There are many accounts in scripture where man used his earthly wisdom to accomplish something. The Tower of Babel, found in Genesis 11, tells us how men, in their desire to resist God's plan to scatter across the earth, decided to build a tower. But God, looking down on this problem, said, "Behold, the people is one... and now nothing will be restrained from them... Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language." In 1 Samuel 13, saul decided he couldn't wait any longer for Samuel to come and sacrifice for him, so he, taking the matter in his own hands, offered the burnt offering. But when Samuel came shortly thereafter, he rebuked Saul, and told him that God had taken the kingdom from him. Jesus gives the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. This rich man decided that since his crops were doing well and his barns were already full, he would tear them down and build bigger. Then he would take his ease for many years. This line of thinking is rampant today even in the church. But God said, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be..." The problem with earthly wisdom, as shown by the above examples, is that it leaves God and eternity out of the picture. But there is a God. He drew the picture! No wonder earthly wisdom always fails in the end.
The second wisdom is heavenly. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). For the remainder of this article let's look at seven characteristics of godly wisdom by finding each one in the life of a Bible character.
1. Wisdom is first pure. Purity is a vital part of living the Christian life. In today's world, moral purity is treated as worthless, but it is valued highly by God. Joseph, when Potipher's wife enticed him, said "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God." Joseph realized the importance of living a God-honoring life and he valued it more than the pleasures of sin. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." That is a big requirement to meet, since we as humans fail so easily.
2. Wisdom is peaceable. War and strife have taken the place of peace in society, and strife often finds its way into the church and causes separation. But this ought not to be. When we have council meeting, we express our peace with God and our fellowmen. Is that something we maintain all year, or do we do a quick fix so we can partake of communion? While David was fleeing from Saul, he sent some of his men to go ask Nabal for food. In return, Nabal says, "Who is this man that I should feed him?" When David received that reply, it angered him greatly and he headed out to kill Nabal. Abigail, realizing what had been done, prepared a large amount of food for David, so she could spare her husband. Although she couldn't change what her husband had done, she could still make the best of the situation. Even though she didn't know what Matt. 5:9 says, she saw the blessing of being a peacemaker.
3. Wisdom is gentle. Jesus gives the parable of the Good Shepherd in Luke 15. The Shepherd saw the importance of the one sheep that was lost and went looking for him. The picture shows him finding the lost sheep in a bramble or crevice of a rock, gently picking it up, and carrying it back to the fold. So often we as the lost sheep don't heed Christ's gentle knocking on our heart's door. But He "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Once we realize what He has done for us, we should surrender our wills and give Him our all. Then we can follow the Good Shepherd's example and gently lead others to Christ.
4. Wisdom is easy to be entreated. We say sometimes that if a brother sees an area in our lives that needs to be changed, that they should come tell us so we can change for the better. Yet often when this happens, we quickly point out our brother's wrongs and convince ourselves that we are better than they are. Apollos, in Acts 18 was an eloquent, fervent, and mighty man in the scriptures. He taught diligently, but only knew about the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla, hearing of this, took him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Although there is nothing recorded of his response, there was a marked change because he convinced the Jews, showing them by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. Someone has written, "We sing Blest Be the Tie that Binds' and yet we let the least little offense sever it." Godly wisdom is not easily offended.
5. Wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" someone has said, "The Christian is the world's Bible." They can see right through the church and pick out the "Christians" that aren't Christian. The account of Dorcas, found in Acts 9, shows how a life full of good works is greatly missed. The widows realized what Dorcas had done and how her life was a blessing to them. May we be meet for the Master's use and bring forth fruit that honors and glorifies Him.
6. Wisdom is without partiality. Our greatest example of impartiality is God. He has no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. On the Judgment Day there will be no bribery and no careful reasoning with God. He will judge every man according to his deeds and it will be fair. Whenever partiality is shown in the home, school, or church it ruins relationships between those under authority and those in authority. We have to be very careful not to cause friction between parties in situations like this.
7. Wisdom is without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the fruit of a hypocrite. A hypocrite is one who doesn't practice what he preaches. In Luke 18, Jesus condemns the Pharisee for exalting himself, and yet he says of the publican that he went to his house justified because he saw himself for what he really was and acknowledged it. We often say, "God, I've done this and this, so I deserve that." We often forget that the publican's prayer is the one that counts. May we continue to apply our hearts to that principal thing "heavenly" wisdom.
- Pensacola, FL