We each should desire to be wise, because a truly wise person will be successful in how he lives his life and how he relates to other people; more importantly, he will be pleasing to God. James teaches us to ask God for wisdom. 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.” God is the source of true wisdom.
The wisdom of God is different from the wisdom of the world. 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:13 “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” A wise, godly person demonstrates that he is wise by his good conduct. James 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.”
Let us first look at earthly wisdom. James 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.” Earthly wisdom is about self. It is characterized by envy and self-seeking or contentions and conflict. Envy is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others. This wisdom is about what pleases you and especially your senses and your pride. It comes from the devil. It results in confusion and every evil thing. This is the way of most people in the world.
The wisdom from God is different. James 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.” Let us look at the characteristics of this wisdom.
First of all, this wisdom is pure. It is not a mixture of earthly wisdom and godly wisdom. It is not partly sensual and about self and partly what God desires. It results from a wholehearted desire to do what pleases God.
It is peaceable. Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Psalms 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Since the wisdom from God is not about self, it seeks to avoid division, contentions and conflict and instead it pursues peace.
It is gentle. Gentleness is tender and amiable; it is considerate and kindly in disposition as opposed to being hard or severe. Jesus was gentle. He described himself in Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The apostle Paul was gentle with the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” A nursing mother is usually gentle with her child. God’s wisdom is gentle.
It is willing to yield. It does not insist on having its way but submits to the desires and needs of others. 1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” God’s wisdom is willing to yield.
It is full of mercy. Since God has been so merciful to us, we should show mercy to others. Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” God’s wisdom is full of mercy.
It is full of good fruits. Jesus taught that we should bear much fruit. John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” God’s wisdom is full of good fruits.
It is without partiality. That means that it is not partial to the rich over the poor, to the old over the young, to the handsome over the plain, to the leader over the follower, or to the family member over those outside the family. It treats all alike in love. James 2:8-9 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
It is without hypocrisy. A hypocrite is an actor. He pretends that he is one way to win people’s favor, but in his heart he is not really that way. Jesus was very critical of the Jewish leaders of His time because they were hypocrites. But God’s wisdom is not hypocritical.
The differences between the selfish wisdom of the world and the wisdom that comes from above should be obvious to you. I encourage you to desire the wisdom from above to direct you in how you live for Him. Here is a portion of the prayer the apostle Paul had for the Colossians. Colossians 1:9-10 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”