By guest writer, Katie Pearson
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” - James 3:13 - 4:8
It’s easy to pick up on James’ frustration and even anger in this passage. Reading his references to killing, coveting, and fighting, we might excuse ourselves from the conversation, assuming they don’t apply to Bible-reading people like ourselves. But Scripture applies to all of us and contains spiritual truths we should eagerly apply to our own lives (and hearts). All of us harbor some level of selfish ambition, wanting to look good and get our own way. This can even happen in sharing the Gospel, when we idolize knowledge over wisdom.
Do you ever feel at a loss for words when talking about your faith? Perhaps you’ve shared a piece of biblical advice that wasn’t well received? It can be deeply discouraging to walk away from a conversation feeling there was more we could do or say to communicate the Gospel or provide godly counsel. If you are honest, you might even be a little angry if the other person didn’t seem to listen, or respond as you expected. Based on this passage from James, consider that the problem might actually be you.
Even if your heart for sharing God’s truth is pure, when you believe that you alone know what approach is most effective, then you are edging toward pride. While knowing Scripture by heart is important, it isn’t knowledge that captivates hearts for Christ, it’s wisdom. It isn’t knowing more about God that influences people, it’s witnessing how he manifests in our lives—oftentimes without words.
This is a huge blind spot for many of us.
So how do we get it? To obtain wisdom, James 1:5 says, simply ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Can it really be that easy? Yes and no. God is generous with providing wisdom, but also discretionary. He only grants it to those who will steward it well (and wisely!).
In fact, Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” In our study of Proverbs 31, we explored the impact of living in “fear of the Lord.” A reverent life produces spiritual fruit, including wisdom, as exemplified in this godly woman’s roles and relationships. Proverbs 9:10 isn’t saying that we should learn more about God to be wise; instead, we should pursue knowing him personally. Wisdom isn’t just something we obtain, it’s a lifestyle for those who desire to know God above all else.
Lord, above all else today, I desire wisdom that I might be a reflection of your Son everywhere I set foot. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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