Where Does Wisdom Come From?
Read James 3:13-15 (ESV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
How does the world display its wisdom and how is that different from how Christ-followers are called to be wise?
It is common in our society to equate education with wisdom. We think that the more letters a person has after their name, the more we should listen to them. I think that education is important and scholarship is valuable. After all, I went to college! I invested in my education! But the issue is, sometimes, the more education a person has, the more arrogant and selfish they become. Education and knowledge is not the same as wisdom. I can gain a lot of knowledge but lack an awful lot of wisdom.
James said if we are truly wise and understanding, we’ll act like it. Wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge, wisdom impacts the decisions we make and informs the way we live. He said that if we are truly wise, we’ll demonstrate it with gentleness and good conduct, or godly living.
Furthermore, he told us that true wisdom is from God. It comes from above. But false wisdom is limited to this world. It is worldly, it is physical and sensual rather than spiritual, and its source is demonic!
If we want true, godly wisdom, where can we find it? When we go back to the Bible, we see that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who practice it have a good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). The psalmist agreed with James that true wisdom comes from a reverence and respect for God rather than from worldly teaching. He also agreed that wisdom is something we put into practice, not just something we put into our brains. It is something that we get from God and then live out.
In Proverbs 2:6, King Solomon also acknowledged that true wisdom is a gift from above: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” God’s Word is the source of real understanding! In Proverbs 15:33, the concept of wisdom coming from a fear of the LORD is repeated but with this addition: “And humility comes before honor.” It is wise to be humble and meek rather than being prideful and seeking selfish honors.
Just as James warned that worldly wisdom can lead to a self-centered arrogance, the psalms and proverbs agree that godly wisdom should lead to gentleness and humility. When we understand that our wisdom is a gift from God, what reason do we have to be arrogant or prideful? We didn’t do anything to deserve God’s gift. Rather, He gave His wisdom to us for His purposes.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul wrote, “This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Gaining a bunch of knowledge can puff us full of pride. But when we put godly wisdom into action, in order to love and serve other people, we build them up. In doing so, we build up the body of Christ.
Friends, let’s not confuse worldly knowledge with godly wisdom. Diplomas and degrees are great. But if we do not have godly wisdom that transforms our way of living, we will use our knowledge for selfish ambition rather than for the glory of God and the building up of His church.
Lord, I know that You are the source of true wisdom. Thank You for giving us Your Word which reveals real knowledge and understanding. Please increase my discernment, God. I want to be wise in Your eyes, not in my own eyes or the eyes of the world. Amen.