Wisdom: A word that can be hard to define, especially in the culture that we currently live in.
Lately, I have been considering what it means to be “wise in the sight of God,” or how to differentiate between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Recently I was promoted to a leadership role at my job, and I have found myself seeking God about what it means to be a godly servant leader. One thing God is showing me is that servant leadership requires seeking Him for wisdom in humility. In light of this, my question is “what does godly wisdom look like?”
First, Read the whole third chapter of the book of James for context. Let’s focus on the last few verses, specifically James 3:13-18:
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.
God was providing a prescription for what it looks like to have godly wisdom vs worldly wisdom! Try rereading James 3:17, but insert the opposite of each word to build a stark contrast in meaning:
|Godly wisdom||Wordly wisdom|
|Pure||Selfish ambition, jealous, impure|
|Open to reason||Closed to reason, selfish, does insist on its own way|
|Full of mercy||Full of legalism, full of wrath|
|Good fruits||Rotten fruits|
|Sincere||False, dishonest, boasting|
Based off this contrast, it is easier to differentiate between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Wisdom from above is peaceful (James 3:17) while worldly wisdom is chaotic and disorderly (James 3:18). Also, to answer the question, “what does godly wisdom look like?” let’s look to Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” The Hebrew of this word “fear” is yir’ah which means (of God) to respect, revere and be pious towards. Fearing the Lord means having a reverent, fearful awe of the almighty God.
So how do we gain wisdom? We can look to James 1:5 for advice:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
According to this verse, we must pray and ask God for wisdom without doubting and He will give it to us. At times, we try to accomplish tasks in our own wisdom and strength, and we become weary. We have direct access to the God who created the universe and we can boldly approach His throne to ask for wisdom. What a gift we have!
Lastly, in Proverbs 19:20-21, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
I believe God has placed certain people in my life to speak truth to me. People that I know are seeking the Lord. I have gone to them for advice and at times they have given me instruction that has helped me in my decisions. Proverbs 15:22 compounds this point by stating “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” If you do not have godly counselors, pray that God would provide them.
Are you seeking worldly wisdom or are you seeking godly wisdom? Have you been following wisdom from the world or the Lord?
Let me encourage you in this, God desires for us to boldly ask in faith for wisdom and seek Him through His Word. In this moment, ask God in faith to give you wisdom. He will provide it (James 1:5). Please know that I am not an expert at this. I write these things not because I have arrived, but because I’m on a constant journey of gaining wisdom.
God really encouraged me with these verses. If you are in the season of needing direction, please do not give up in seeking wisdom. I’m praying that God will use these verses to impact your view of wisdom. May we seek the Lord in gaining wisdom through prayer, His Word and godly counsel.
Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
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