What does wisdom look like?

We live in a world that considers itself wise.  Never before has information and technology been as readily available as it is now.  Yet wisdom as the world describes it, is not devine wisdom as the bible describes it.  Let’s look at James 3:15-18

“Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 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. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Here, Paul describes two kinds of wisdom.

  1. There is wisdom from above, divine wisdom that comes from God.
  2. Paul also recognizes that there is a wisdom that is worldly, natural, and even demonic. In 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, the apostle Paul wrote of teachers and philosophers as the “wisdom of this world”.

The world’s wisdom comprises of human wisdom, which is un-spiritual wisdom and even demonic wisdom.

Let us break it down further.  God has given humans the ability to study, analyse, categorise and develop the physical resources in this earth to benefit physical life. But that’s where our human wisdom ends. Because of sin, our mind is unable to discern the spiritual dimension. We have 1) no power to change our own heart, 2) no understanding to solve our spiritual dilemma and 3)no resources to satisfy our soul – we are spiritually dead, therefore we have un-spiritual wisdom, or human wisdom.

We generally operate on our human wisdom, namely what we think we know.  However, human wisdom is shaped out of the latest experiences, knowledge, trend, fashion, the era we are living in, popular opinion, popularity etc.

Human wisdom is changeable and influenced by worldly philosophies and methodologies, which divert us from the Word of God — the only source of truth that can satisfy the deep needs of the human heart. The Corinthian believers had the same problem in 1 Corinthians 1; as different people had differing opinions and broadcast-ed their beliefs, the prevailing ideas of their day strongly influenced them. When they became Christians and were awakened to the revelation of God, (divine wisdom), they were exposed to an obvious conflict between their human wisdom and God’s wisdom.

Paul, describing that conflict said, ‘the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’ 1 Cor 1:18, 20. While the first-century philosophers viewed the wisdom of God as foolishness, in truth, God exposed their so-called “wisdom” as foolish.

That opposition just described, makes the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God incompatible – they are mutually exclusive.

A wise man knows he is a foolDemonic wisdom as also described by Paul in James 3:15 above, and we often do not realise that this wisdom also in operation in our world.  There has been situations where people, thinking they are operating in human wisdom, have actually been operating in demonic wisdom, eg. Hitler and Germany; genocide in Rwanda and even individuals have suicidal tendencies, it may appear like human wisdom to the sufferer, but it is actually demonic wisdom that is focused on the destruction of the individual or people.

Satan inspires demonic wisdom, it started in the garden, disguised as a lie (“listen to me, I have true wisdom,”) and continues today.

Demonic wisdom is always out to destroy the lives of people.  The wisdom of man (human, unspiritual or demonic) does not contribute to the spiritual dimension.

God’s wisdom is rich and infinite – it needs no supplement.

Worldly wisdom produces troubleenvy, strife, and disorder that comes from instability and works that are worthless and of no account (James 3:16).  The true nature of worldly wisdom (human or demonic) can be observed in the fruit it produces; it breaks down people and destroys relationships.

Whereas according to James 3:17, devine wisdom produces good fruit, particularly in the area of relationships with people.

Reflection Questions:

  • There are three kinds of wisdom: Godly spiritual wisdom, human or unspiritual wisdom and demonic wisdom.  Define each of these for yourself according to the text above.
  • From the above text: “Human wisdom is changeable and influenced by worldly philosophies and methodologies,” honestly evaluate the impact of social media, television series, influencers or celebrities on the human wisdom and what people believe in society in the last 30 years.
  • Consider 1 Cor 1:18-20 from the Message bible and how it makes a comment on society today: “The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,    I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.          So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.”
  • According to James 3:17 what fruit does divine wisdom bring about?

Father open my eyes to discern the difference between human, demonic and godly wisdom in the world around me.  Help me to recognize godly wisdom when I see it and may my heart pursue Your wisdom above all other types of wisdom.  I confess that I have followed worldly wisdom before, but I see now that only your wisdom leads to good fruit in my life.  Help me to recognize areas of my life where I am still following worldly wisdom and help me to replace it with Your wisdom Lord.  I confess that Your wisdom will produce purity in my life, along with love for peace, consideration for others, submission, mercy and good fruit that is impartial and sincere.  I am a peacemaker in the world around me because Your wisdom lives in me.   

Next: What is a Fool? (Next in the 10 part series on Wisdom)

Previous: Knowledge and Wisdom

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