Today everyone seems to be an expert, and very sure of their positions. And yet the pundits and the media got the election outcome wrong. Believers were on all sides of the issue. Who was wrong and who was right? Even with the outcome, it would be difficult to say. I’ve been in many situations in churches where mature believers saw things from very different perspectives and came to extremely different conclusions based on how they felt “led.” Look at the generals during the civil war and it appears there were far more committed Christ-followers on the losing side than the side that came out on top. We seem to forget how limited we are, how prone to deception, and how much humility we need when it comes to matters of discernment.
As I was reading through the book of James this year, I was reminded that James lays out the contrast between earthly wisdom and godly wisdom. First, godly wisdom displays these qualities:
* A life that demonstrates God’s goodness in what it does. I would call this integrity. One’s words and deed are in harmony. Later in the passage James says that godly wisdom is full of good fruit.
* A life marked by humble attitudes and actions. Godly wisdom is not being displayed by anyone who pridefully states one’s case. One can be committed to truth without being brash or rude. Of Jesus it is said, “A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Paul tells us to deal gently with our opponents, this can only be done by one who is humble in his or her approach to those who differ with them.
* Wisdom from above is first of all pure. Any wisdom that is tainted or depraved should be automatically dismissed. That may seem to be a no-brainer, but it is surprising how much of the world has penetrated the minds and hearts of professing believers.
*Godly wisdom is peace-loving. We saw that in the comment about humility. In such a life its own ego is not bound up in whether others agree with it or not. In verse 18 it says that Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. This peaceful wisdom is not passive, it is fruitful.
* This heavenly wisdom is considerate. It does not harangue, does not bully others, it does not force its opinion onto others. It peacefully and firmly proclaims and holds onto the truth that comes from the Word and the Spirit, but leaves room for the Spirit to do His convicting and convincing. When truth is rejected, it realizes that God is who is being rejected, and not the person speaking God’s truth.
* Wisdom from above is submissive. And it honestly keeps in the back of its mind that limited human understanding might misinterpret God’s truth, just as Abraham knew that God would preserve the promise through Isaac, but was wrong about the method. Godly wisdom understands its own human limitations, and constantly looks to the Lord to confirm or alter that understanding.
* Like the Lord from whom all wisdom comes, godly wisdom is full of mercy. Again, it lays ego aside in its proclamation of truth. It does not become angry or offended at those who are “ignorant.” Hebrews speaks of a good high priest who is “able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray.” Whose opinion or heart was ever changed by an angry, judgmental person or argument? But one who is full of mercy can win hearts and change minds—less through their arguments, and more through their demeanor.
* This heavenly wisdom is not partial. It does not come through our biases or preconceived ideas. It comes from the heart and mind of God, as it is discerned through the Word and the Spirit. When we try to force God’s Word into our own notions, it will fail.
* Lastly, godly wisdom is sincere. There are no hidden agendas in the wisdom from above. It does not seek to manipulate, coerce, or advance its own agenda. It speaks what it hears from the Lord, fully, courageously, and humbly, knowing that obedience is our part, and outcome is God’s.
Godly wisdom is contrasted with the “wisdom” that does not come from heaven but is earthly. It has many distinguishing characteristics by which we can recognize it.
* This kind of wisdom is unspiritual. It is not in keeping with the Word of God or His Spirit. In fact, it is often plainly contradictory to the truth of God. When someone says, “I think…” we should check to see if it is in harmony with what God says. If it is rooted in earthly philosophy, other religions, or worldly wisdom, it should be immediately suspect, if not automatically dismissed. We should ask, “What is this wisdom’s source?”
* Other things that should alert us to earthly wisdom are when we sense envy, selfish ambition. It is often manipulative and deceptive. We should ask ourselves, “What is this wisdom’s agenda?”
* Earthly wisdom is also often characterized by disorder, confusion, and discord. Its direction and outcome can be toward evil practices. These things are all obviously not from God, and have the devil’s fingerprints all over them. The devil loves division, while God desires unity. The father of lies loves deception, while God loves truth. The question we should ask is, “What is this wisdom’s fruit?”
To sum this up, not surprisingly godly wisdom comes from God, it also points us to God as our source of enablement and implementation. Its fruit is good and godly, having His holy, peaceful, merciful, humble fingerprints all over it. Let us compare all we see as wise to this standard.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries