In this world, there are many who claim to be intelligent. Experts tell us what the stock market will do, what sports teams will win, and whether to bring an umbrella tomorrow. Others tell us how things work, or what we should do in order to succeed (however they may define that).
However, I don’t see nearly as many people claiming to be wise. Wisdom doesn’t seem to be a frequently marketed quality in the commercial world, even though I’m sure that many organizations seek out that trait in their employees without necessarily calling it that. I don’t remember ever seeing a résumé that claimed certification or education in wisdom, although if wisdom were quantifiable, I think that would be a great idea.
Wisdom is more than intelligence. The wise person might not be the smartest in facts or academic degrees, but knows the right thing to do. Wisdom allows one to consider the physical world, the social impact of decisions, and – ideally – the truths of the spiritual realm. In wisdom, there is not only an understanding of what is possible, but also a foresight into the likely outcomes. There’s no mathematical model for wisdom, yet it is still needed even when we have all manner of simulations and projections at our disposal.
For someone who has matured and acquired wisdom (often from God-given sources, like the book of Proverbs, or by just asking God for that wisdom – see James 1:5-8), a quiet confidence arises, founded on an understanding of what is important and how to achieve that.
However, there is sort of a “test” of one’s wisdom, described later in the book of James:
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
James 3:13 NLT
First, note that the lead-in to this verse combines wisdom and an understanding of God’s truth. These two qualities go hand-in-hand and each of them can help the other to grow in our lives. The wise person realizes that human beings aren’t as wise as the Creator, and the seeker of God’s truth receives wisdom from Him.
As you may know, the book of James is known for its practical advice about living out faith, as contrasted with hollow claims about beliefs that don’t change or correlate to our behavior. Here, James just comes out and challenges those who have wisdom (and knowledge about God): show the results of your wisdom through your life.
If a student claims to be really smart at math, but usually gets math problems wrong, we might question their skills. If someone says that they understand good financial principles, but is millions of dollars in debt, we might question whether or not they are following those principles.
In the same way, if we have wisdom and knowledge about God, that’s no place to stop. When you know the wise choice (like living honorably), but don’t actually make the right choice, your wisdom doesn’t do you much good. When you use your wisdom to bully others around, rather than being humble, it seems that your wisdom doesn’t extend to an understanding of the human condition. When you have reached a sufficient level of wisdom, you realize that purpose comes through service (and not just any service, but service to a greater cause).
So, don’t stop seeking wisdom because you don’t want to change your life. That would be pretty unwise. Instead, as you pursue the wisdom of God, prove your wisdom by living it out in righteousness, service, and humility. After all, isn’t that what wisdom teaches us: to discard the frivolous bad choices of ignorance and foolishness, and to do something that truly matters?
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.