“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 3:17). This is what I call my wisdometer (or wisdom-meter). That is, this verse is the gauge by which I measure every decision I make or every opportunity that comes my way.”
James was one of the most influential leaders of the early Church. Second born of Mary and half brother to Jesus, James remained faithful to his Jewish roots as overseer of the 1st century Jerusalem church. Even so, he was instrumental in the propagation of the Jewish Messianic Gospel to the gentile world. He exercised his authority by writing to the new non-Jewish believers, urging them to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. Thus, James greatly facilitated the spread of the gospel to you and me in the 21st century.
A man of wisdom and insight, James was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write probably one of the earliest epistles of the New Testament. Addressing his letter to the dispersed Jewish believers, after the martyrdom of Stephen, among other thoughts, James expounds several doctrines including faith, obedience and healing. He also gives an elaborate picture of the power of the tongue on individual lives and society at large. However, of all that James expounds in his epistles, to me the most significant teaching has to do with wisdom. In the beginning of his epistle he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him,” (James 1:5). Then, in chapter 3 James develops his wisdom writing by explaining the difference between human wisdom and wisdom that comes from above.
Wisdom is very a valuable and vital commodity for wholesome and godly living. Wisdom is essential to prudent decision making. Naturally speaking, wisdom is applied knowledge. We all gain wisdom by learning how to apply life’s lessons. But knowledge can be applied with wrong motives. James says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice,” (James 3:16).
Selfish ambition is seated in egocentrism and asks, “What’s in it for me?” Knowledge applied with selfish motives is completely contrary to Christ’s teachings, such as: as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them and love your neighbour as yourself and seek first the kingdom of God. We can see the effect of selfish ambition in every walk of life from politics to family life. Selfish ambition arises from worldly wisdom.
But, there is a wisdom that comes from above.
It Begins with Purity
There is a wisdom that does not come from knowledge or learning. This wisdom is inspired by the Holy Spirit. This kind of wisdom is not self-seeking and does not result in selfish ambition. Listen: “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 3:17). This is what I call my wisdometer (or wisdom-meter). That is, this verse is the gauge by which I measure every decision I make or every opportunity that comes my way. Like a speedometer of a car, this gauge reveals the effectivity of every action in my life.
There are 8 points on this gauge:
Wisdom from above begins with purity. Purity is essential in making godly choices. Purity asks the question, why? What is the motive of my heart? Will my ambition result in my selfish achievement or in the common good, for God’s glory? Purity is the first point the needle of my wisdometer points to when making life choices.
Often, we’re faced with choices that place us in a position of conflict. When this happens, the second point on my wisdometer becomes imperative to making a wise decision. Will my words or opinions bring peace or contention? Sometimes, the right choice may result in a skirmish, but provided I maintain a steady, “purity” mark on my wisdometer, peace will always light up with confidence. Jesus gives a peace that is contrary to worldly peace. It’s a peace of heart even in the face of conflict.
Scripture says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (Philippians 2:4). The third point on my wisdometer will always light up if, with a pure heart, I place the interests of others before my own. When it does so, I can go ahead and make my decision.
We notice in schools, businesses, churches and even homes, those in authority are gravely disrespected these days. Insubordination is often exalted in this 21st century politically correct world. Second only to the authority of God and his Word, wisdom requires that we submit to God-ordained human authority. God’s Word says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17). On the gauge of wisdom, submissiveness is essential to respectful decision making.
We are all guilty of violating God’s righteousness. All have sinned and missed his impeccable mark of goodness. Therefore, we are all destined to separation from God and for an eternity in hell. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In his love, God has shown mercy to you and me through the work of Christ on the cross. Mercy triumphs over judgement (James 2:13). Therefore, it is wise to behave toward others as God behaves toward us by walking in mercy – not selfish ambition – when making life choices.
- Good Fruit
When faced with options in life, God’s Word calls us to be very careful how we live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Therefore, I need to apply my wisdometer gauge of good fruit to every opportunity that comes my way. Is the choice I’m about to make productive or a waste of time? Is the opportunity I’m about to appropriate going to produce good fruit or bad? Sometimes, making the most of an opportunity simply means letting it go.
This point on my wisdometer challenges any biased attitude I may exhibit in my decision making. Often, we lean toward options that will favour our particular social norm or standing. But wisdom from above is not partial to favouritism. In fact, in his epistle, by the Holy Spirit, James tells us to not show favouritism. He says, “If you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers,” (James 2:1-11). Impartiality will indicate brightly on my wisdometer if my choices in life are made to not favour one person above the other.
Sincerity is governed by truth. A decision or choice made with a genuine heart in all honesty is the mark of integrity. My wisdometer reveals that wisdom from above is firstly pure and it is lastly (and by no means least), sincere. Jesus is the truth. Truth is the belt of our spiritual armour. God always vindicates the truth. Making plans and decisions with all sincerity will reveal the true motive of the heart. And out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
In your decision making, when opportunities come your way, I encourage you to hold up your wisdometer. Allow it to gauge the motives of your heart and wisely guide you to make the most of every opportunity, for the glory of God.
This article was written by Dudley Anderson of Sure Reality Media and pastor of Cornerstone Family Church. Dudley has a background in radio and is the author of God-Tracking Through the Year and Overflowing Hope. He also writes a weekly GodTracker devotional.