The godly speak wise words and promote justice. The law of their God controls their thinking; their feet do not slip. Psalm 37:30–31 (NET)
All wisdom is not the same. Or, stated differently, the wisdom that comes from God far exceeds any so-called wisdom that this world has to offer. The challenge that we face is in the discernment of wisdom. There is a lot of noise today, and many people claim to be showing us wisdom, but how can anyone know for sure?
Before we can speak wise words, we must learn wisdom. It is somewhat of a conundrum because how will we know wisdom when we hear it or read it until we are wise? We can begin by asking God: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5 (NLT)
Even so, we still need the standard to measure the worth of the wisdom we receive. The Bible, particularly the book of Proverbs, is a good place to begin: Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the wisdom of the wise. Proverbs 1:2 (NLT).
If the purpose of the book of Proverbs is to teach us wisdom, then a fundamental lesson is: The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord, and acknowledging the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NET). In other words, our quest for wisdom must begin with fear and reverence for God. There is a lot of nonsense that sounds wise to the undiscerning, but fear of the Lord is where we start.
Wisdom from Above and from Below
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. James 3:17 (NLT)
For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. James 3:15 (NLT)
Worldly “wisdom” sounds a lot like the fruit of the flesh, whereas the characteristics of “wisdom from above” bear a strong resemblance to the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-23). Perhaps it is not so difficult after all to discern what is true wisdom. In the eyes of the world, it would seem wise to go along with the fashions and conventions of the culture. If you want to be accepted, conform. Appearance is more important than substance. As someone once said, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Jesus was a nonconformist. He hung out with the “wrong people,” and he did not always follow the rules of etiquette commonly accepted in society. His response to all of this was: But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” Luke 7:35 (NLT).
In writing to the Colossians, Paul was concerned that they might be deceived and led astray by arguments that sounded plausible, perhaps even wise, but was of no help in overcoming evil desire (Colossians 2:4-5, 16-23).
Paul reassured them, saying: I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2–3 (NLT)
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 1 Corinthians 2:13 (NIV)
A significant problem in the contemporary church is the reliance upon human wisdom. In the effort to relate to people, we have come to rely upon consultants and church growth experts. Why should we be surprised that the outcome is “wood, hay, and stubble?” The effort may seem impressive until tested by fire. It is always better to do things God’s way:
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.” 1 Corinthians 3:18–20 (NLT)
Without calling into question the motivation of those who attempt to build God’s kingdom utilizing worldly wisdom, we look back at 2000 years of church history to see that when we deviate from God’s wisdom and his plans and purposes for the church, the results are not impressive. Only when we rely entirely upon God’s wisdom will our efforts stand against the testing.
When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NLT)
Someone once said, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Preach the Word.” Some claim that people will not come unless we entertain them. The attention span of the modern individual may be shorter than it has ever been, but it is amazing what the Holy Spirit can do when we follow God’s plan and rely upon his wisdom:
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 dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation. 1 Corinthians 1:20–21 (The Message)
God’s way is always best. We must speak God’s wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes.
Photo by Nitin Arya: