How do we find true wisdom?
What is the wisdom that comes from God?
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If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8)
James is saying that the search for wisdom is a good thing only when a certain ingredient is present. We should ask God for this wisdom, but we must ask with belief, with faith. Without faith, there is no point asking as we will always doubt any answer we may get.
This idea is further developed theologically by the intellectual force that is known as Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians:
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)
Oh to have the mind of Christ, because if we truly can live in this state, then we are going to easily fulfil the task set in an earlier article, getting inside the heads of those first believers in Jesus, who surely also had the mind of Christ, as Paul declared.
To achieve this we need the wisdom that comes from God, through faith, not that which comes from the World. James has some harsh words to say about this:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17)
Let’s now pause and regroup. The first feature of the mindset of those first Jewish Christians – assuming they followed the teachings of James and Paul - is their attitude to wisdom. All knowledge, and the wisdom to apply it, was to come from God, through prayer, Scripture and the teaching of the apostles. All other wisdom is from the World or from the devil, producing envy, selfishness, disorder and every evil practice.
What else does James show us through his letter? There is much about doing things. Faith and wisdom are fine, but, when combined with actions, this is where real Christian living kicks in. Here is an example:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
More on this next week …