Summary: What makes a peson truly wise?
What makes a person truly wise? How do you know that someone is wise? These are great questions, let’s look to the book of James for some solid answers.
The proof of widsom and understanding does not come from your words, instead it is borne out in your actions. James speaks to the issue of right living as one of the proofs. We should probably define that as living that is not counter to your beliefs and values. Humility in all things would be another proof of wisdom and understanding. Being humble in all that you do means that others come first. A truly humble person will lower themselves to promote others. Humility is born out of wisdom. Godly wisdom allows us to see the issue of humility more clearly.
On the other side of the equation is bitter jealousy and selfishness. First of all let’s get a workable definition of these things. Bitter jealousy - bitter is used to describe brackish water that is unfit for human consumption. Bitterness and jealousy are equally unhealthy as drinking brackish water. This type of spirit creates a zeal that is not driven by God. The outward manifestation of bitter jealousy is:
Selfishness - only seeking self promotion. The driving thought is always “what’s in it for me”
Bitter jealousy should not be boasted about as it detracts from God’s glory in your life. Hebrews 12:15 even warns us that bitterness spreads to others. Sometimes we seek to hide the truth about bitteness, but we are warned that it should not be lied about or ignored. To cover up what is in the heart serves no real purpose. If the heart issue is ignored it only grows and festers.
The real root of bitterness and jealousy is defined for us. First of all we are exposed to 3 types of prevailing "wisdom." I find that these are relevant to what we see and read in the media to day. The first type of wisdom is earthly widsom - what the world says is wise. There is also unspiritual wisdom -comes from within (gut feelings). Neither of these are necessarily bad, except when it is claimed that these are from God. Finally there is wisdom of the devil - thoughts under the control of demonic influence. Obviously this is destructive.
James gives us a contrasting of lifestyles that I think can be helpful for recognizing and removing the root of bitterness. Bitter/Selfish people seek to cause trouble. They want to bring people down to their level and want to be the center of attention instead of God. They are surrrounded by disorder and evil practices. They seek to hurt others and do not respect authority. This disrespect of authority is evident at all authority levels.
True wisdom can be defined as moral virtue and practical goodness. It is God given and God serving. The following characteristics are easily recognizable:
1. pure - moral purity, blamelessness, no contaminates
2. peaceful - seeks right relationships with others;
seeks forgiveness when wrong and forgives when
3. will actively seek to heal relational issues
4. gentle - not harsh...shows compassion
5. sensible - well thought out...not rash
6. kind - helps those who are hurting
7. helpful - seeks to serve
8. genuine and sincere - no phony fronts....what you
see is what you get
I want to leave you with a couple of final thoughts. There is not wisdom where there is divisiveness, for wisdom is peaceable; it is the peacemakers, then, who possess wisdom, which is the fruit of righeousness. Peace flows from true wisdom in contrast to the sort of harsh insistence on “truth” that divides people. As you go through this week ask God to mold you into a vessel of true wisdom and understanding.