One thing I often ask God for, is wisdom. Wisdom and discernment. I pray these gifts for my family, for my daughter. One can be the most talented, gifted, intelligent person in the world, but without heavenly wisdom, that person will encounter many problems and suffer a lot as they try to navigate through life.
I love this verse because in a snapshot, it details the characteristics of the gift of wisdom that comes from the Lord. James 3 is full of sound advice, first discussing taming the tongue, and the dangers of not controlling the tongue. It then moves on to discuss the two different types of wisdom there are – worldy or demonic wisdom, and heavenly wisdom:
‘Two Kinds of Wisdom
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.’ James 3: 13 – 18 (NIV)
This is described as being born out of bitterness, jealousy, selfish ambition. Or rather, navigating and approaching life with the mindset of being self-seeking. The overall ambition is to serve oneself above others and to progress and further oneself at the expense of others or the greater good. From a worldly perspective this can sometimes appear to be ‘clever’ or ‘wise’ or savvy. It can appear to further people – to the point that they may feel shallow victories, or pride, or be boastful in their methods, or on the other hand, try to hide and deceitfully cover the wisdom used for selfish gain. This wisdom is not of God. It is unspiritual and demonic. That which is not of God, is of the enemy, and can only lead to bad; ‘where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice’. When the root cause for behaviours stems from jealousy or selfish ambition, the means to make oneself feel better tend to stem from evil and do not lead to good fruit and righteousness.
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’
Galatians 5:19-26 (NIV)
In all situations, we should aspire to demonstrate heavenly wisdom. It requires humility and a laying down of oneself, for the sake of what is right. It is much harder to employ, but the evidence of heavenly wisdom is seen in the good fruits demonstrated in that person.
The wisdom which comes from God is honourable, virtuous and upright. It is untainted by jealousy. Untainted by a desire to be self-serving. It comes from a place of good and with the aim to bring about that which is good, correct, right and Godly. Even when that means humbling oneself. In fact, often it is necessary to humble oneself and take the more difficult path in order to exercise heavenly wisdom.
Ephesians 4: 2-3 tells us to, ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ Jesus, himself, is the Prince of Peace. Godly wisdom is born from a mindset of wanting peace; a mindset of doing all necessary in the aim to bring about peace. Again, this usually requires humbling oneself for the greater good. It completely contradicts the worldly wisdom that comes from self-seeking desires. God promises that those who sow peace will reap a harvest of righteousness.
The New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible uses the word ‘gentle’. Wisdom that comes from a place of gentleness and being considerate to others, usually helps to bring about peace. Where worldly wisdom brings about bad fruits such as discord, hatred, and fits of rage, Godly wisdom brings about gentleness and being considerate.
A lot of people dislike this word – it may be easier on the palate seeing the NKJV translate it as ‘willing to yield’. This means allowing the other person to have ‘right of way’. Standing back to allow the other person to air their viewpoint or to push ahead with their way of doing things. Not allowing yourself to be walked on or taken advantage of, but having the Godly wisdom to see when humility would be the wisest option in the quest for the overall good of a situation. Being willing to yield, means not always having to have the last word.
- Full of mercy and good fruit
This is the evidence that is clear to all. Being full of mercy means being quick to forgive, being understanding of the fact that we are all human, we all make mistakes and errors of judgement, we all have hurts and wounds and things we are working through. Being full of mercy means being able to let things go. Being merciful as Christ was and continues to be, to us. And hence, Godly wisdom allows space for good fruit to shine through. Those good fruits being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Note the second fruit, ‘joy’. Those who produce good fruits experience and bring about true joy, making it well worth doing things God’s way!
Employing Godly wisdom means treating people fairly and justly. Not holding onto prejudices, discriminations or things of the past, but treating them fairly with regards to whatever situation you are currently faced with. Treating them fairly even when this means (again!) humbling oneself.
- Sincere (without hypocrisy)
This one is self-explanatory. Sincerity and a genuine wish to do what is right, to act in a way so as to bring about peace and the overall greater good – these intentions come from a place of Godly wisdom and honour the characteristics God wants us to display.
I pray that in all things, we will seek to be more like Jesus, the Prince of Peace. I pray that we will seek to be full of mercy, full of forgiveness, full of compassion, sincere, and filled with the desire to love one another as He first loved us.
In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.