On Wisdom

James 3:13-18 (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. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But 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 in peace by those who make peace.”

This may sound strange coming from someone with a doctorate degree, but what if I told you wisdom has nothing to do with what we know, but rather what we are. All the book learning in the world cannot buy one ounce of wisdom. James makes that very clear: “Let the wise man show his wisdom by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

In its purest and most powerful form, wisdom is what draws people to God. I am reminded of Peter’s words: “Live such beautiful lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

Knowledge has the potential to be counter-productive. Bypassing the heart, our thoughts can invoke prideful responses and feelings of superiority, which are certainly not Christ-like and not the ideal He has established for us. Rather, we seek the wisdom from heaven as James writes.

This is a wisdom that is morally pure and peaceful. It is a wisdom aligned with God’s will, focused primarily on our eternal destination as opposed to this temporal existence. It breeds humility and gentleness, allowing the individual to stay teachable and open to reason and repentance. This wisdom is full of mercy, understanding the frailty of humanity and the pain we inflict on one another. It absorbs this weakness and returns love and patience in its place.

Wisdom forgives when it has every right to condemn. Wisdom understands the mutuality of being a sinner, and gives comfort to those who need a helping hand. Such wisdom as this cannot be gained from others, or obtained by our own efforts. It is not a product of time spent in classrooms or reading books—it is as James writes, a gift from above.

Wisdom has no age barriers, but rather is simply attached to those who sow the seeds of righteousness in their daily walk, providing a light for those still in darkness.

That is the legacy of true wisdom.