James 3:17-18. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Who doesn’t want wisdom? There’s a guy in my small group whose prayer request every week is for wisdom. “Pray for me to have wisdom,” he says. And he’s not wrong. We do need to pray for wisdom. James 1:5 basically commands it.
James 1:5. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
I think we can all agree that we lack wisdom. But do we know what wisdom is?
We tend to think of wisdom as some sort of supernatural decision making power. We need wisdom when we don’t know what to do, or which path to take. Do I go through door A or door B? Let me pray for wisdom.
But expecting God to tell us what choice we should make is a way more pagan idea than biblical idea. In general, scripture does not say that God will tell us what to do in specific situations, or what specific choices to make. Who to marry. What college to attend. Which job to take. Which church to go to. Which space to park in (somebody once told me that when they go grocery shopping they pray and ask God to show them where to park). Yes, at times in the Bible God appeared in visions or spoke through a prophet with specific instructions. But these were not the norm. A life of wisdom was to be the norm (Proverbs). Walking with God. Trusting him with all your heart. Knowing him intimately. Fearing him.
James understands true wisdom. He doesn’t present wisdom as a way to “know the will of God.” For James, wisdom is a power source. Power for either doing the will of God, or rejecting the will of God. Our lives are guided by either earthly wisdom or heavenly wisdom (3:13-18).
- Earthly wisdom: bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting, lying, disorder, every vile practice, demonic.
- Heavenly wisdom: good conduct, meekness, pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, righteous.
Heavenly wisdom isn’t about how to know the will of God for your life. Heavenly wisdom IS the will of God for your life. Does James describe wisdom as a list of things to do? No. He describes it as a way to be. A way of life. Wisdom is receiving the good and perfect gifts of God our Father of Lights (1:17), and letting them conform us into Christ, the Lord of glory, by faith (2:1). Wisdom is knowing that whatever choice we make, God will use it to reveal himself to us and to grow us into his likeness. Wisdom is character development. Wisdom is Christ.
You see, in Christ, you can be God’s heavenly wisdom, meek, pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, merciful, good, and righteous no matter what choice you make, door A or door B. If you marry Bill or if you marry Bob. If you go to Harvard or if you go to community college. If you take the job or stay where you are. No matter what you choose to do, you can choose to be wise with Christ’s heavenly wisdom.
We get so stressed out over the decisions we have to make each day don’t we? And there’s no doubt that we face some very important choices every day. But what if we are focusing on the wrong decision? What if the most important decision you face today isn’t what to do, but rather how to do it? Whatever you choose to do, will you do it from heavenly wisdom or from earthly wisdom? Divine power or demonic power? Whatever you choose to do today is not nearly as important as the choice to let the living Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, flow out of your life. His meekness, his purity, his peace, his gentleness, his reason, his mercy, his goodness, his righteousness.
In Christ you already have all of these things. Now will you be wise and let them out? Will you be wise and “to live is Christ?”
What decisions are stressing you out today?
You in Christ
In Christ you have all wisdom because you have the character of Christ by the Spirit. How does this actually take away some of your decision making stress today?
Christ in you
How can you focus more on who you are today rather than on what you do?
Playlist: Songs of wisdom.