“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17, ESV).
On Monday we looked at how the need for immediate gratification, and the fear of missing out, are character traits of fools. If we aren’t careful we can easily find ourselves buying into the world’s mindset of biggest, fastest, shiniest and newest.
Proverbs 17:24 says, “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth” (ESV). There is nothing wrong with nice things, unless they rob us of the right things. It’s often been said that the good is the biggest enemy of the best. Usually this is said in relation to whether we spend our time involved in “good” activities versus “better” activities. And at first glance, the statement seems to support the bigger-is-better, go-for-the-gusto, philosophy. But I would argue that how we use our resources is a gauge of our wisdom. The discerning person understands that the path of wisdom doesn’t always offer immediate gratification or an easy journey; rather, it concerns itself more on the end game.
Tuesday we saw that we need to recognize that wisdom is “yummy!” Proverbs 24:13-14 says, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (ESV). It tells us to eat sweet honey and savor the goodness. Why? So that we have an idea of just how good the wisdom of God is! Honey looks good, smells good, and tastes good. And wisdom feeds your soul in the same way.
I am a hopeless, helpless, unapologetic chocoholic. I can’t think of a single time in my life when I had had enough. Chocolate is good morning, noon and night. Chocolate is my honey. I wish I could tell you that I have had grand success in identifying my longing for chocolate with my longing for wisdom. I’m a work in progress. But I am beginning to develop a taste for wisdom. I’m beginning to realize that as good as chocolate is, wisdom holds far more value.
Then on Wednesday, we saw from Psalm 51:6 that That God speaks to us and teaches us in the “secret heart.” Thankfully, God’s favorite place to start is the heart! He doesn’t withhold his love, grace, and wisdom from us until we have cleaned up the outside. He teaches us wisdom “in the secret heart,” the part of us that no one else sees; and that wisdom finds its perfect work in bringing our secret heart to the surface.
We saw that when we work with God, instead of against Him, we develop lives of integrity. We become the same on the outside as we are on the inside. We grow into Christ, becoming more and more like him every day.
We learned yesterday that as we grow, spiritual wisdom finds its manifestation in our physical, earthly lives. The result of which is that we bear spiritual fruit and our knowledge of God increases. Knowledge is important, but wisdom gives knowledge legs and feet. Wisdom really is a foundational element for living out God’s will.
All of this brings us to today’s text in James. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17, ESV). Whenever I read this verse I’m reminded of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), where Jesus doubles down on the law, linking it to motive. He showed us that the Law is impossibly difficult to follow externally, and yet even more difficult to follow internally. He also established that His followers are held to a higher standard than the Pharisees, whom He said were polished on the outside, but filthy inside. It is a road sign pointing us in the right direction, a useful tool that that provides both direction and motivation.
James 3:17 also hearkens, for me, to what Paul calls the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Like the Sermon on the Mount, the Fruit of the Spirit are benchmarks, if you will, for those who are called by the name of Christ. We can use them as gauges to evaluate our progress in our Christian journey.
We use the wisdom of God, planted and cultivated in our innermost being, our secret heart, to learn from our past, discern our present and harvest our future.
In wisdom we learn from our past. We are able to impartially evaluate our spiritual and our physical thoughts, decisions and actions. They say that hindsight is 20/20. We are able to see clearly our past through the lens of our current wisdom. It has also been said that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
It’s been my personal experience that this is the case. Whether I have succeeded or fallen, by not taking the time to evaluate the past, or asking for God’s wisdom, I have repeated failures and left undiscovered the keys to success in a given endeavor. I was once an addict…to Angry Birds. Given my OCD proclivity, I could never simply complete a level. I had to get three stars. But there were levels where I just couldn’t see a solution; I would repeat the same process again and again because I didn’t take the initiative to re-evaluate the strategy. And such is life.
Wisdom helps us discern our present when we submit our decisions to God and seek direction through His Word and prayer. I know you’ll probably think I was a dolt—and I would agree!—but it used to be that I would would hear that still small voice saying things like “You shouldn’t hold the box like that or you’ll cut your finger,” or “You should save a copy of that to your cloud drive,” and I figured “Nah, I’ll be alright. Then I cut my finger and lost a document. I was a habitual ignorer of the wisdom that God was offering to me. Of course, I have learned, finally, to walk in the wisdom of those moments.
Wisdom also helps us harvest our future. What do I mean by that? 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, but, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (ESV). And Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV).
Obviously, God can desire to bless us, and try to lead us in the right direction, and we can fail to follow. We can choose a different path. God has good things planned for us, but if we walk in the wrong field we will get the wrong harvest!
So how do we know which wisdom is from God and which is from…anywhere else? James 3:17 provides us with a checklist. Scroll back to the top and give the list another ponder. That God wants us to be wise is indisputable. That He tries to provide us with wisdom is also indisputable. And he even gives us instruction on how to identify “the wisdom from above.” Bless His holy Name!
As you go through the weekend, ask God to give you wisdom, give some thought to the ways you can discern which wisdom is from God, and above all, thank Him for His answers. Blessings on your weekend!