Wisdom from Above
Here is a word of wisdom that churches desperately need to hear. The passage describes the “wisdom from above” which is always superior to man’s wisdom. James agrees with Proverbs that wisdom is proven by action; neither one describes wisdom as intellectual attainment but as godly character expressed in righteous deeds. Such wisdom is sensible and discerning, realizing that all deeds are performed before the eyes of God.
First, we observe what wisdom is not. It is not jealous or ambitious, for these lead to “disorder and every vile practice.” And I say that this is something that churches need to hear because so much division in churches is due precisely to these attitudes. It is the attitude that I shall have my way—which often has more to do with not letting someone else have their way—someone of whom we are jealous and whom we dislike. Jealousy then leads to disorder as what follows often includes gossip, slander, phone calls to sympathetic friends, and backroom deals where decisions are made outside appropriate and biblically-ordained channels—in short, vile practices. Yes, I speak as a man of experience.
But let us turn to what wisdom is. In a word, the wisdom from above is meek. And when one has a meek attitude that is grounded in a desire to please God, then one’s actions are characterized by purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good fruits, impartiality, and sincerity. Purity and sincerity refer to a singleness of heart which desires a godly outcome. Peace, of course, refers at the least to being non combative but even more to seeking positive outcomes for all. Gentleness refers to the way we handle others—giving the benefit of the doubt, letting others speak, forgiving offenses. Reasonableness and impartiality speak to the ability to hear all sides without passion and the willingness to change one’s mind when one is convinced of a better way. Mercy speaks to humility when one is proven right and the other wrong. Finally, the wisdom which is from above leads to good fruits, and decisions are made without the clamor of envy and strife. Anything less is “earthly, unspiritual, [even] demonic.”
James spoke of this kind of wisdom before, and the beauty thing is one need only ask for it (1:5). Such wisdom leads to a harvest of righteousness as God’s people sew in peace. And so, I return to where I began—the local church. This is the kind of wisdom we need more of—the kind of wisdom that puts others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:3).