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Wisdom from Above

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Word of Wisdom from James

The book of James gives us wisdom for practical, Christian living. In James 3, James first addresses the power of our words, but even a lost person can at times control their tongue. So in James 3:13-18, James contrasts the foolish wisdom of the world with Godly wisdom from above.

We all have been guilty of doing stupid things that we end up regretting. But God gives wisdom to all who ask for it. In fact, the Bible tells us that the most important thing we can do in life is to seek wisdom that comes from above. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.” Godly wisdom is the most precious thing we could pursue. Proverbs 16:16 tells us that wisdom is better than gold and understanding better than silver.

What is wisdom?

Wisdom by definition is, “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight; common sense; good judgment, the sum of learning through the ages; knowledge.

Wisdom is not always linked with age, experience or education. Take children for instance. Patrick, age 10, says, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.” Michael, age 14, says, “When your dad is mad at you and asks, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.” Wise man that Michael, he also said, “Never tell your mom her diet isn’t working.”

Worldly wisdom vs. Godly wisdom

There is a big difference between ungodly or worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom. Warren Buffett is the second richest man in the world. He is worth over 44 billion. In June of 2005, buffet decided to raise money for his charitable foundation, by offering an online auction in e-bay for someone to have lunch with him. The winning bid was $351,100—the price of access to the world’s second richest man.

If the value of worldly wisdom is that high for a lunch appointment; what price would we put on the wealth of wisdom we have right here in God’s Word?

In James 3:13-18, the Bible asks the question who is wise and understanding among you? Wise describes someone with moral insight and skill in the practical issues of life. Understanding refers to one who is an intellectual and comprehends the world of science.

The Bible is defining the vast sum of wisdom and claiming how that wisdom will be demonstrated.

Godly Wisdom shown in conduct

James writes in verse 17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.” Godly wisdom is demonstrated in a life surrendered to God. This person does not have to boast about how wise they are, all will see it lived out in front of them.

In the first part of James, chapter 3, James says that anyone who is religious but does not keep a tight reign on their tongue their religion was worthless. We he also says that to be a Christian is more than saying we are a Christian, we must prove it by the life we live. Now, in verses 13-18, James outlines how this is done. He says in verse 13 that our good conduct, our works, will be evidenced by seven traits found in verse 17.

7 traits that provide evidence of good wisdom

1. A person with Godly wisdom is Pure

To be pure means to be clean or innocent. This is the wisdom that accomplishes good works with no false motives involved. It is a person whose life is a testimony of pure character and honesty before God.

2. A person with Godly wisdom is Peaceable

To be peaceable does not mean being a push-over. It is someone who strives to be at peace. One who remains calm under stress and has let go of anxiety.

3. A person with Godly wisdom is Gentle

Gentleness is a sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love. A gentle person is one who is mild mannered and patient. It includes showing care and respect for others in the way that you act and speak towards them.

4. A person with Godly wisdom is Willing to Yield

A person willing to yield does not mean he or she is easily persuaded but one who can listen to all sides and is willing to do the right thing even if it isn’t their idea. They have a teachable spirit.

5. A person with Godly wisdom is Full of Mercy and Good fruits

A person full of mercy lives a life of compassion and honesty. They are known by their forgiving spirit and their impeccable character.

6. A person with Godly wisdom is Without partiality

In other words, they are impartial. They do not take sides or involve themselves in frivolous arguments. They seek to be peacemakers.

7. A person with Godly wisdom is Without hypocrisy

They are genuine. What you see is what you get. They will not tell one person one thing or then tell someone else a different story.

This is how our conduct is supposed to be. We are to demonstrate these traits in our daily conversation our daily conduct should resemble Godliness.

Godly wisdom shown in Character

In verse 13, James tells us what kind of character we should show through our lives, “meekness of wisdom.” We tend to think meekness is weakness, but the word picture in the Greek for meekness is a horse under control. The bit in the horse’s mouths direct them where they need to go. Our character should be directed by God, and if it is then the power of God is flowing through our lives.

Those who possess this character, those who are truly wise, are empowered with their wisdom from on high. The fruit or evidence of this conduct is the righteousness in our lives. That word righteousness means character. The character of a Godly life is shown in peace. The word peace means prosperity.

The psalmist wrote: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

God is saying the conduct and the character of this Christian will be seen by all and blessed from above.

Ungodly Wisdom

America today is looking for wisdom from the world. Oprah, Dr. Phil seem to be the leading authority for America to find help for their struggles.

In Dr. Os Guinness’ article entitled “America’s Last Men and Their Magnificent Talking Cure” he talks about how America has become the world capital of psychological-mind-set and therapeutic endeavor. Although America had only 6% of the world’s population, it boasted over a third of the world’s psychiatrists, and over half the world’s clinical psychologists. 80 million Americans have now sought help from therapists. An estimated 10 million are doing so every year. I’m not against psychiatry. In fact, I have a bachelors degree in psychology and a masters in professional counseling. However, we cannot ignore the need to be seeking biblical counseling if we are truly seeking wisdom from above.

Traits of ungodly wisdom

1. “bitter envying.”

Where there is bitterness it possesses the whole life. It’s when a person holds on to a hurt from years gone by. Envying what someone else has.

James is painting a picture of an unwise person that is afraid of losing something. They become uncooperative and competitive.

2. “self-seeking

This person is ambitious, asking what’s in it for me. The phrase actually means someone who shows an inordinate desire for power or prestige. It is hidden motives of wanting our own way.

3. It’s action “in your hearts”

The heart is the origin of all moral actions. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” He also said in Matthew 15:18-19, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

The heart can be so self-deceptive that we lie against the truth. When jealousy and self-seeking prevail in the heart we lie to ourselves. We begin to base our thinking off someone or some situation based entirely on lies. Paul teaches Timothy, ““And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26

4. Does not come from above

Ungodly wisdom is the wisdom of the world, but really it is the wisdom from the evil one. It can be called psychology, philosophy, science or religion. But when it does not measure up against the Bible, it is worldly wisdom, not Godly wisdom. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, hated Christianity. He called himself, “a completely Godless Jew, and a hopeless pagan.” In 1918 he wrote, “I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash.” Unfinished Business, (pg.121)

Because it does not come from above, earthly wisdom comes from the world’s system. It is tied to this world and it looks to the earthly standards of morality, success, and counsel. It has earthly motives and earthly methods.

5. It is opposed to spiritual wisdom

It is also opposed to spiritual, Godly wisdom. William Barclay in his commentary says this wisdom acts like an animal. It’s only thought is personal pleasure and fleshly desires. One only has to look to Hollywood to see this wisdom and how it has influenced our culture today.

6. It is demonically influenced.

John Wesley translated this word, “such as Satan breathes into the soul.” Jealousy and bitterness are the evidences of demonic influence. James tells us in verse 16 that where these things exist, confusion and evil are evident and the result is unruly confusion and every evil thing. That is exactly what the enemy wants to do in our lives and in our churches: cause confusion and bring in every evil thing. He wants our lives to be unruly and unstable so that our churches will be filled with people relying on earthly wisdom rather than Godly wisdom. Satan wants us operating in our own strength, because then we won’t walk in faith. He wans us operating in our own strength, because then we are not operating in the strength of God.

Satan also wants to bring into our lives every evil thing – the things that are useless or good for nothing. When the righteousness of Godly wisdom is absent every evil practice exists. This is how the enemy destroys us. Christians and churches can commit evil, because they are relying on earthly, fleshly, demonic wisdom to be the influence in their lives.

Are you measuring wisdom by God’s stands or the world’s?

Rather than seeking God’s wisdom and God’s standard for their lives, many believers have been brainwashed by the world and the church has lost its power and influence because the people have allowed the world to infiltrate the church.

Carl Sandberg, the American poet, wrote a massive volume on President Abraham Lincoln and the war years. The 68th chapter has an interesting title borrowed from a woodsman’s proverb. Its title is, “A Tree is Best Measured when it is Down.” You see, you cannot accurately measure the height of a tree until it is cut down. The point Sandberg was making was that only after the death of Lincoln could people assess the value and impact of his life.

Solomon’s wisdom was a gift from God, but his heart later turned away from it

But Lincoln’s many achievements were not at all as impressive as those of another man. This man was an author, diplomat, poet, song writer, theologian, a philosopher, philanthropist, architect, builder, engineer, extremely wealthy, and a king. King Solomon. Listen to what his dad told him in Proverbs 4:3-7, “For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (KJV)

Young Solomon listened to his father King David. In 2 Chronicles 1:7, God asked Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted. In v.10 Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge to lead God’s people.

King Solomon was the wealthiest, wisest man to ever live. The nation of Israel prospered under his leadership unlike any other time in their history. However, the King’s heart was turned in 1 Kings 11, The wisdom he had acquired as God’s gift he abandoned for earthly, sensual, demonic influence.

“Who is wise and understanding among you?” When our lives are measured do we show God’s wisdom in our daily walk?

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