Wisdom from Above

from the James reading plan

James 3:13-18, Proverbs 11:18, Romans 12:9-21, Galatians 5:22-23, Hebrews 12:11

When I was a boy, my dad would often pray that the Lord would make us “wise beyond our years.” I’m not sure that I understood the importance of that prayer when I was young. The older I get—and the longer I have been in ministry—the more I appreciate that he prayed it for us.

That prayer, however, opens the door for a litany of interconnected questions: What is wisdom? Where does it come from? How do I know that I have wisdom? These are the questions James raises and answers for us in the third chapter of his letter.

First, he tackles the question, “What is wisdom?” Sometimes the best way to define something is to explain what it is not. J. Gresham Machen once explained, “You can’t set forth clearly what a thing is without contrasting it with what it is not… definition proceeds by way of exclusion.”

James explains that some who think they are wise actually have hearts full of “bitter envy and self-seeking” (3:14). Bitterness and self-seeking may accompany a form of worldly wisdom, but they are antithetical to true wisdom. By way of contrast, true wisdom is full of meekness. Meekness is willingness to bow to the will of God, even when it means laying aside what I want, for the good of others.

Next, James contrasts the source of true wisdom and its counterfeit. One is sensual, earthly, and demonic; the other is from above. James calls worldly wisdom “demonic” because it leads to “confusion and every evil thing” (v.16). The Scriptures tell us that the evil one is the author of confusion and the father of lies. When we adopt the wisdom of the world we inevitably begin to live and think like the evil one, rather than like the heavenly Christ.

Finally, James says we will be able to tell whether the wisdom we possess is from God or from the evil one by what it produces in our lives. Whereas the wisdom of this world brings about bitter envy and self-seeking, the wisdom that is from above manifests itself in “the fruit of righteousness” in the life of the one who possesses it (v.18).

True wisdom is pure in doctrine and life. It is peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, merciful, impartial, and sincere. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Which of these two forms of wisdom am I manifesting in my life?” God’s grace in Christ enables us to become wise beyond our years in the wisdom that is from above.

Written by Nicholas Batzig

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5 thoughts on "Wisdom from Above"

  1. Andrew Flack says:

    In this, James almost makes it sound so simple and easy. “Don’t let evil overcome you, but overcome evil with good”. This seems so simple but it really isn’t. When I sit down and think about how many sins I struggle with every day irrelevant of my inspiration from a good devo, or a great sermon, etc. Man that’s a lot of sin. And every night and day when I have a fresh mind, I pray that I will do better and that He will be with me through the day to constantly remind me of what’s right and wrong. But when it comes down to it, almost every time I’ll just screw it over and not do it. Right when it gets hard, I quit. I know the gifts of evil aren’t satisfactory and are nothing compared to the gifts of good. But why is it so hard to resist peer pressure and temptation? God I pray you help me with this issue so I can shine as an example of you.

  2. Alex says:

    How do we display wisdom that comes from God? It’s not by expounding our excellent theological knowledge. It’s not having a vast understanding of Greek and Hebrew biblical literature. No, James tells us that we display it in our good deeds done in humility.

    That’s far easier said than done, you might even argue it would be easier to learn Hebrew! Good deeds we can do, but there’s often or always an underlying desire for recognition, for appraisal, or for repayment of some kind. Or there’s a pride that taints the whole thing, when we think we’re better than others because of what we’re doing.

    I’m guilty of all those things and I’m sure you are too, but it is how we are called to live in wisdom. James goes on to explain that wisdom from God is; pure, peaceful, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

    It’s pretty clear for me that I definitely don’t possess all of the wisdom that’s described here. Maybe you could associate with a couple of things there, but not all of them, and definitely not all the time!

    But then there’s a link here with Galatians 5:22-23 as we look at the fruits of the spirit. This is wisdom that comes FROM God, not from us, and it is through the work of the Spirit.

    So why not pray for each other to grow in wisdom, and pray expectantly because God loves to give us what we ask when it is His will.

  3. Enjuju says:

    To be honest, where my life is at now, I wish I could have a surge of Godly wisdom. Many things happening right now seem to be beyond my control, and at many times I wish I knew how to respond.
    I’ve prayed for wisdom to come, bit of course it is all in Gods timing.
    I need to have more faith.

  4. Kevin says:

    I like this view on wisdom where a worldly view of wisdom is deceptive and horrible actually. He calls it demonic because it isn’t from the lord and it’s the property of Satan. When we ask for wisdom, it should be wisdom we receive from the lord and not earthly things. Asking for wisdom in a relationship is tough, but asking for God to show you his plan and how you can best honor him is the way to go. I struggle with this a lot as I ask for wisdom in certain decisions. I should ask God for wisdom always, not just when I need it, and when I do, asking for his will to be done and for me to be a conduit of his love here on earth.

    1. Nick says:

      Spot on, my friend!

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