In a discussion with an older preacher several years ago, we were talking about the wisdom that is guaranteed us from God, if we will simply ask for it with confidence. He quickly added that, “we will get God’s wisdom.” I didn’t respond but wondered why my preacher friend was so quick to add that. After all, James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” James simply said wisdom, not God’s wisdom. So, I wondered what the difference is between God’s wisdom and other wisdom. Over the years I have learned that some of the so-called wisdom that is often celebrated looks crafty, self-serving, trying to get one up on someone else, motivated by jealousy, willing to lie and hold back the truth, or maybe taking advantage of someone. Those things are certainly rewarded and celebrated by mainstream media, politicians, corporate America, and even our educational system. And now thinking back to my discussion several years ago, I think that is why the older preacher quickly qualified the “kind” of wisdom that James says God will give us.
In context, James was writing about problems that Jewish Christians were having with one another. They were everyday problems of conflict of opinions or ideas, discrimination, their speech, anger, aligning what they did with what they said, how they used their tongue, and things like that. And they are the same problems we have today. James says the solution to these everyday issues is found in the wisdom God will give us. So how is that different from the so-called wisdom that we often see celebrated in the world around us? The answer is found in chapter 3, verse 17. James tells us what God’s wisdom is. It is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. That doesn’t sound much like what we see on our TV screens or read on social media.
God’s wisdom is first pure. I think this sets the tone for everything that follows. We understand purity. It implies the best of the best. Nothing else is in it, free of contaminants. There is no hidden ingredient, nothing to come later that will surprise or disappoint us. The purity of this wisdom means there is no “taking advantage at someone else’s expense,” no trickery, no deception, no half-truths or “little” lies. God’s advice will get us through any issue we are facing, because it is free of all worldly contaminants.
Then God’s wisdom is peaceable. That means the wisdom of God results in peace. And peace is something we all want. I have thought a lot lately about this, when I choose my words. When I have a conflict with someone, even minor disagreements, I think about the desired outcome of our conversation and use that to choose my words carefully…at least I’m working on it. God’s wisdom requires work on our part; to think through our words and actions before we put them into motion. Consider the outcome, and refrain from using words and actions that we know will not lead to a peaceful conclusion. When we do, God’s wisdom is at work within us, and we will have increasing peace in our lives.
God’s wisdom is gentle. Proverbs 15:2 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh a word stir up anger.” I think this describes the gentleness of God’s wisdom. Most of us have experienced this. We know that getting unwelcome news is difficult. When it’s delivered with gentleness and calmness, it’s easier to accept. God’s wisdom will remind us to speak with a “soft answer.” It will minimize and often eliminate potential anger and frustration, even though we must deliver a difficult message sometimes.
God’s wisdom is open to reason. This is beautiful to me. Oh, how often I get frustrated because others don’t see my point of view or my perspective on things. How arrogant of me, when I fall into that mindset. God’s wisdom will move us to consider the other’s viewpoint as useful and as credible as our own. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians in this country worked harder at that? As we work to be more like Christ and be the salt and light, He says we ARE. We will listen more carefully to others’ views and perspectives and consider them as a worthy option, when we talk with people, especially those closest to us.
Then James tells us that Gods’ wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. Mercy is receiving kindness, when we don’t deserve it. God has certainly done that for us. When we are praying for wisdom, let’s remember how God has been merciful to us and extend that to others, especially when we think they don’t deserve it. Notice that it’s tied to good fruits. Fruit here is the product or the result, not the action. Action is mercy extended to others; the result will be good. That should be enough to motivate us to pray for God’s wisdom.
It's impartial. God desires all to repent and be saved, 2Peter 3:9. Rich & poor, young & old, single & married, widows & orphans, everyone! God loves all of us, and we love God. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. No Christian likes discrimination. Sadly, we probably have all felt discriminated against at some point in our life (favoritism shown to a classmate by the teacher, chosen last when picking teams, overlooked for a deserved promotion, an opportunity not offered to us, etc.). God’s wisdom will move us away from doing that to our friends…and enemies.
God’s wisdom is sincere. Much like purity, where James began, kind of like bookends. But it takes on a little different nuance. The emotion released when dealing with difficulty is normally very apparent to those around us. When they can get a vibration of sincerity from us, it will improve their own ability to deal with us and help to resolve most issues more quickly. None of us who’ve been Christians for long doubt God’s sincerity. He is on our side, Psalms 118:6. He doesn’t approve of everything we do, but as soon as we come to Him with sorrow, He’s there for us. His love is sincere, and we know it. We can show that same sincerity to others, as we interact with them.
Let’s pray for God’s wisdom to direct us in every aspect of our life. Our closest friends will want to be even closer to us. Our enemies will find their frustrations with us to be less difficult. We’ll make the world around us a better place, because we ARE light and salt. And we’ll draw closer to God with a thankful heart.