Wisdom: Both Varieties

Front Lines

by Dee Bowman

Wisdom, in simple terms, is the ability to handle situations, mainly with persons. To be truly wise requires a broad range of knowledge and experience. The wise person is one who is of necessity reflective, meditative; for right choices are based on right thinking. Likewise, the wise person is decisive, judicious, using his sound judgment to bring about the best end for all concerned with the situation or for the ones affected by his choice. Wisdom is greatly to be desired. lts possessor will be happier, more useful.

Wisdom is applied knowledge. It is not learning per se which constitutes wisdom, but the proper use of what is learned. Some of the most learned people are among the most foolish. They are possessed of great intellectual capacity but little ability to apply what they learn. On the other hand, there are some people who are more naturally inclined toward wisdom. Such folks are blessed with a temperament which is not easily disturbed and have an extra portion of what has come to be known appropriately as “common horse sense.” Even the simplest person can be wise if he learns to apply the principles of God to his life situations (see Proverbs 1:4).

There is a worldly wisdom. That is, there are  sensual, evil things that, put to work, will benefit the user. The young executive on his way up and in competition with one of his peers, can start a rumor, suggest a character flaw, or in some other subtle way indict his competitor and by it gain that much—wanted promotion. There are all kinds of this and other manifestations of human wisdom at work around us. We see it in frequency advertising where public saturation is used to sell inferior products or products not actually fitted for our best interests. It is sad, but true, that some things must be categorized as wise merely out of the fact that they work.

Earthly wisdom is motivated by ”bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts” (James 3:14). That is, it is the application of a poor motive, usually engaged in order to achieve some sort of self-gratification. Selfishness is a  strong factor in human wisdom simply because it does not seek the general welfare, but is concerned only with doing its own thing. It will cause its adherent to boast that his way worked and since it worked it must be right. Such an attitude will likely result in strong assertions concerning the effectivity of human wisdom—boastful assertions like “I did it my way.” Such wisdom is not “from above,” but is seated in earthly, devilish origins. Furthermore, “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:16).

But the wisdom which is sourced in God produces all manner of good things.

First, it is pure. That is, it is without alloy; there is no admixture, it simply seeks after the good. When one applies God’s principles to a given situation they will always tend to clarify, to enhance, to bring about an honorable conclusion because wisdom is pure.

Secondly, the wisdom that is from above is peaceable. Many times human wisdom, even though it is effective, brings chaos and confusion. Not so with God”s wisdom; it begins with peace, works toward peace, concludes with peace.

The wisdom of God is gentle, doing its work with kindness and benignity as opposed to the brash, self-indulgent characteristics of the earthly variety. The wisdom from God is strong, but controlled. It is willing to acquiesce where truth is not at stake, to show itself merciful even when such is not deserved in order to bring about a conclusion that will be edifying to all concerned. But it will never, never compromise. It produces such good fruits without bias or partiality, knowing that all men everywhere are terminals of God’s grand mercy and that He “is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).

Wisdom from above! Pure. Peaceable. Gentle. Yielding. Let us seek after its refreshing flavor, for it is not only functional, but palatable. Let us use it to the advantage of all. Let us rejoice in its availability and relish in its provisions for our safety.

CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE  MARCH, 1984