Summary: What does wisdom from above look like? What would happen in a church displaying such heavenly wisdom? James gives us the answer to these questions.
JAMES 3:17, 18
“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown by those who make peace”
James called for people of wisdom to identify themselves. Those who are unwise will expose themselves as fraudulent when their “wisdom” is examined. Those who are wise will be apparent through a similar examination of their lives. Learning to distinguish what honours God and what excites this dying world is the ongoing task assigned to each Christian. In order to fulfil this vital responsibility, join me in study of James’ explanation of divine wisdom.
WISDOM THE WORLD ESTEEMS — Though it appears valid, and perhaps even beneficial, the wisdom valued among earth dwellers cannot stand the test of eternity. There is, however, wisdom that does stand the test of eternity, reflecting as it does the smile of Heaven. Jesus addressed the issue of wisdom quite frequently, stressing the need for those who would please the Father to act with wisdom. The wisdom the Master espoused is assuredly countercultural, because it rejects the concept of self-preservation, exalts the ideal of self-sacrifice and leads the one possessing that particular wisdom to weigh every action against God’s approval.
As an example of the contrast between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of Heaven, Jesus contrasted those who heeded His teaching and those who pursued their own interests by means of a parable concerning two men building houses. He concluded the parable by making a pointed application: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” [MATTHEW 7:24]. The wisdom of this world would approve of building one’s life on a philosophy that is insecure, justifying the action on the basis of ease and comfort, whereas the wisdom of heaven would be demonstrated through anticipating difficulties and planning accordingly. The Master taught us that building on a secure foundation was wise, whilst building on sand was foolish.
Similarly, when He sent His disciples out into the world Jesus urged them to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” [MATTHEW 10:16]. They were to anticipate how wicked people would act in response to the message of life. They would need to guard against acting out of malice or with a desire to hurt others, and yet they would need to patiently present the Good News and persistently obey the command of Him who sends His people to serve.
Because we have the promise of the Master concerning His return, we may be either wise or foolish when preparing for the fulfilment of His promise. Jesus spoke of this when He told a parable about ten virgins. In the Master’s parable, five of these virgins were foolish and five were wise [MATTHEW 25:2]. The foolish virgins failed to anticipate that the bridegroom would come when he said he would come, but the wise were prepared. The foolish did not invest a significant amount of their capital in preparing for the coming of the bridegroom, whereas the wise knew that they were responsible to be prepared for the moment when the bridegroom would appear. Those that the world would have said were wise were proved by events to be foolish, and those whom the world would have ridiculed as overly prepared were proven wise by events.
On yet another occasion, the Lord addressed the matter of wisdom, comparing the failure of the children of the Kingdom to use the wisdom God provides to the avid use of earthly wisdom by those in the world. Listen to that parable. Jesus “said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” And the manager said to himself, “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He said, “A hundred measures of oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.” Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?” He said, “A hundred measures of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill, and write eighty.” The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light’” [LUKE 16:1-8].