Wisdom Quotient


Most Americans have taken an IQ test at some point in their lives, many of them have taken an EQ test – testing their emotional quotient. But how many of you have ever taken a WQ test? Well, James has a WQ test. It is a test of the Wisdom Quotient. And the reason we need a test is because a lot of what passes for wisdom is not real wisdom in God's eyes.

But why is it important? EQ tests began to be popular only when people began realizing that the emotional quotient of an individual had a lot more to do with that person's success in business than his or her IQ. Now (for today) whether or not you buy into the legitimacy of IQ and EQ is immaterial. I was just using that to illustrate that the results of a high WQ make the subject worth studying. And James says that the results are huge: Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. No church wars of chapter 4 when you have a high WQ. On the other hand, the results of a low Wisdom Quotient are equally huge: Verse 16 says, For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. He says that any evil is possible with a low WQ. Those are high stakes. You ignore the wisdom quotient to your own lack of success.

But the problem is that many people confuse IQ with WQ. There was a large survey that was done some years ago as to who was considered to be the most intelligent person in America. And perhaps you saw the results of that. Carl Sagan was the winner. He's now dead. But people were impressed with his intelligence. And there is no question about the fact that he had a high IQ. But according to God, intelligence is way overrated. The Bible would consider Carl Sagan to be a fool because God says, the fool has said in his heart "There is no God." And over and over again Carl Sagan said that there is no God. We need to keep IQ and WQ clearly distinct in our minds. In fact, biblically, you can have a high Wisdom Quotient and not have a very high IQ. On the other hand, there are many people with high IQ's have would register a zero on WQ in God's books.

And it's not just atheists. James' discourse wasn't even addressed to pagans. His concern in this book was with believers who knew a lot, said a lot and even had enough experience that the world might think of them as wise, but who in reality were showing immaturity, foolishness and a disqualification for teaching. I know brilliant Reformed people who must have an enormous IQ, but whom I do not like to hang around because they have such a chip on their shoulders, they can't seem to enjoy a conversation unless they have an opportunity to cut somebody down, and you wonder if you will be the next one that they will dice with their theological sword. They lack the peaceableness, the gentleness, the willingness to yield, the mercy and the other things that James says true wisdom has. But perhaps worst of all they have a theology without works. They can tell you everything that is wrong with the evangelism of an Arminian, but they don't evangelize themselves. But what kind of wisdom is that?! They can tell you everything that is wrong about the prolife movement, but do not lift a finger to change our culture themselves. The bottom line is that they have a very low WQ.

Chapters 2 and 3 described faith without works as being useless, and then words without works as being useless, and now he shows a wisdom without works as being equally useless. Do you get the impression he considers works to be important? I sure do.

These people obviously had enough knowledge that they wanted to be teachers (verse 1 says). And James pops their bubble. He says that they were disqualified for teaching by their immaturity. And they say, "But, but, but… you said we were supposed to show forth our faith with works. This teaching is my good works. I'm doing a spiritual thing. And James opens up our understanding of what an incredibly dangerous tool the tongue is in the mouth of the immature. Now, in verses 2 and 3 he also shows what a wonderfully powerful tool the tongue can be in the mouth of the mature. But he emphasizes the danger because he is talking these people out of teaching. He pointed out that we waste and destroy other people's lives in the ways in which we debate theology. We gossip under the guise of taking prayer requests. We slander brothers in the name of theological integrity. Our tongues become weapons used against the brethren instead of being tools of healing and of reconstruction. And James says that it ought not to be so.

But James doesn't just rebuke them for their bad use of the tongue. Last week we saw that James gives practical steps for taming the tongue by grace. In ourselves, no man can tame the tongue. But though we can do nothing apart from Christ, we saw that James assures us that we can do all things – including taming the tongue – through Christ who strengthens us. And we outlined twelve practical steps for changing our speech in this chapter, and quickly covered another three in chapter 4.

And we saw how verses 13-18 of chapter 3 directly relate to the problem of speech. Until you have dealt with the motivational issues, you will never be able to deal with the speech itself. If bitterness of verse 14 grips your heart, it will manifest itself in bitter speech, no matter how hard you try not to. If envy is in your heart, it will come out of the mouth eventually no matter how much you try to close your mouth. We saw last week that simply shutting your mouth and abstaining from speech won't solve the problem. Nor will adding all kinds of spiritual speech according to verse 1. Until the inner negative motivations are mortified or put to death, James said to cool it on being a teacher. Natural abilities to teach are not enough. So we have already dealt with these verses to some degree by way of motivation. But I want to come back and look at what we missed.

Biblical wisdom (the wisdom from above) shows itself (v. 13)

But now in verse 13 (and this is Roman numeral I on your outline) James addresses the same people and pops another bubble that they have blown up in their pride. Some of these people who aspired to be teachers did so because they were intelligent and had a great grasp of theology. That's obvious from the book. But James gave them a challenge: Who is wise and understanding among you? [And as he says that, a bunch of hands go up. And James continues,] Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness [not the pride, but in the meekness] of wisdom. [And a bunch of hands probably went down.] That word "show" is a key word in James. When James uses it he is saying, "Hey guys! The proof of the pudding is the change in your lives. What difference has your wisdom made in you?" True Biblical wisdom will always show itself in ways that are quite different than worldly wisdom does. Earlier he had said, "Show or demonstrate your faith with action. Show or demonstrate your teaching with action." Now he says, "Show or demonstrate your wisdom with action." The Hebrew model (and this passage is rooted in the Hebrew Old Testament – the Hebrew model) for wisdom is diametrically opposed to the Greek model. The Hebrew model for wisdom was practical, action oriented and related to real living. The Greek model for wisdom was totally intellectual, and it often didn't have to have any practical ramifications in life. Read some of the Greek philosophers, and you can have a great head trip, but it did nothing for true living.

And that is the question I want to ask this morning: "What difference has Biblical understanding made in your life?" Do you study the Bible with the Greek model of wisdom governing your studies? If so, James says, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. The wisdom from above is very much interested conduct and good works because it is meek or harnessed to serve the master. Greek wisdom like Plato and Aristotle had could be admired by people even though they were homosexuals and pedophiles. There was a disconnect between living and thinking. And I think the same disconnect happens with many theologians.

Did you know that Stalin was very knowledgeable in the Scriptures and at one point he desired to enter seminary? People thought he was a promising young man for the ministry. He had memorized more Scripture than probably most of you, if not all of you here have memorized. You see, Satan doesn't mind Biblical knowledge so long as it isn't changing you. Your flesh won't automatically rebel against Biblical knowledge. It's only when you begin implementing it that Satan will try to get you to suppress that knowledge. So this morning I want to analyze the difference between mere intellectualism (which many people have achieved) and the life-changing wisdom that God gives.

And first of all, it might be helpful to review some terms that we learned in chapter 1: the difference between knowledge, understanding, wisdom and prudence, because not all of you were here for that sermon.

Knowledge refers to the accumulation of information or facts. So it's opening up your head and pouring in information. It's data input. For example, maybe you have memorized several Scriptures about child rearing. That means you have grown in knowledge.

Understanding is a step beyond that. There are people who have memorized tons of Scripture, but they don't understand it. Understanding is seeing how the facts of the bible, or of the economy, or of any field of study fit together with meaning. It sees how the information relates, and why it is important. I think most people have experienced the lights going on, and they now recognize what you are talking about. That is an understanding. Systematic Theology is understanding how the facts of the Bible relate to each other. And understanding is very important. There are so many people who despise systematic theology, which means that they are despising understanding. Without the systematization, all you have is knowledge without understanding.

Wisdom goes one step beyond this. It is the ability to apply that knowledge and understanding to the unique circumstances that you face in life in a way that pleases God. Let me just give an example. If you have read a book on child rearing you have gained a lot of facts (or knowledge). The book has also put together those facts in a systematic fashion related to this subject (that's understanding). If it's a good book, it then applied that understanding to very practical, difficult areas of parenting (that's wisdom). It's the application where the parents frequently are pulling their hair out. They have the knowledge, and they even have an understanding of how it theoretically works, but when it comes to the practical-rubber-meets-the-road situations that the book hasn't told them about - they just don't seem to know how to live it out. James 3 says that such wisdom comes from above. It is supernatural. It cannot be manufactured. Any pagan can spit out information to a class and thus communicate facts that he has learned. In this he is no different at all from a Christian. Both can memorize and both can teach facts. But wisdom goes way beyond that and it knows how to live the knowledge and understanding.

But there's one more word that we went over - prudence. Prudence is the willingness to do the wise thing even in a tough moment. There are a lot of people who have wisdom, but they just don't have the prudence to apply it. Their sinful emotions and desires get in the way. Solomon was that way. He was the wisest man, yet he chose to do folly because of the strong pull of his flesh. He lacked prudence, and that lack made him sin against wisdom.

But the key is that wisdom is the insight to be able to usefully and practically apply the knowledge and understanding to real situations.

How worldly wisdom manifests itself (vv. 14-15)

It manifests a source and character that "does not descend from above"

The world ("earthly")

OK. With that as a background, let's look first of all at how worldly wisdom manifests itself. Verses 14-15. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual demonic. James is not denying that pagans have wisdom. Pagans know how to apply knowledge to real situations in life. There is a wisdom of the world. And the wisdom of man is foolishness with God. We may admire it, but God sure doesn't.

Verse 15 gives four sources of wisdom that we need to be aware of, and those sources influence the character of the wisdom. The first is revealed wisdom, or a wisdom which "descends from above." And we will look at that in a moment. But there are three other sources for wisdom that are in stark contrast to this Biblical, revealed wisdom. The New King James words it, earthly, sensual, demonic. That's in verse 15. Here are some other translations and paraphrases: "it belongs to earth, to the unspiritual nature and to evil spirits." (That's Weymouth). Young's Literal has "earthly, physical, demon-like" Here's Philipps: "It comes from this world, from your own lower nature, even from the devil." Worldwide English translation words it this way: "But it comes from this world. It comes from people. It comes from bad spirits." I have summarized those three sources in the Biblical words "the world, the flesh and the devil." Or another way of saying it is that you get wisdom from culture, from yourself and from demons. And really, those categories cover every possibility, don't they? – unless there were aliens – but there aren't. If you are not getting the wisdom from God, then the only other options are from the world around you, from yourself (in other words, you are inventing new ideas like Darwin, Karl Marx and Freud) or it comes from demons.

And if you are honest with yourself, I think you will have to admit that a lot of our wisdom for daily living cannot be traced to the Bible. We've just picked it up by osmosis. We've never questioned it. We've had it ever since we were little kids. And so, let's look at these sources.

I believe there is a logical order here in terms of emphasis and degree of influence. In America (just as in the ancient world), most worldly wisdom comes simply from the earthly influences all around us: from TV, from the radio, from the newspaper, from their teachers at school. Nowadays the input from email, newsgroups, discussion forums and snail mail is enormous. It's unbelievable the amount of information we are bombarded with. And it's so easy for that stuff to have its impact upon us and for us to assimilate it. And then there is stuff that is not just taught. But it is caught by watching - whether its by way of voyerism on the TV or by way of interaction on the job. It doesn't have to be demonic to be inadequate. Christ rejected the wisdom of the scribes and Pharisees because their wisdom was simply what he called "the traditions of men." That's earthly wisdom. Christ called His disciples to live by the word, the whole word and nothing but the word. That is our wisdom; Christ is our wisdom. The seven descriptors of wisdom in verse 17 are the seven pillars of wisdom in Proverbs – and it is clear that every bit of that wisdom is defined by the Scriptures illuminated and applied by God. But anyway, we are not discussing that, but the world's wisdom. The vast majority of the wisdom most people pick up is from the culture around them. And that cultural wisdom will affect your character and your living. Those traditions of men profoundly affected the Pharisees.

The flesh ("sensual")

The next largest amount of wisdom is self-invented (you wing it by trial and error). You might call this pragmatism. This is our flesh's contributions – or as some translate it, simply our individual nature. Now some people have come up with an enormous amount of worldly wisdom on their own. But almost everyone gains some degree of so-called wisdom simply by trial and error. One of the expressions that you hear a lot is that wisdom comes from the school of hard knocks. You've heard that, right? But many times our survival wisdom scores just as low on WQ as the world's wisdom does. It is self-serving. It justifies our sins. It excuses our behavior in sophisticated ways. Whereas worldly wisdom is what makes sense to culture, fleshly wisdom is what makes sense to me right now. The problem is that our sensual nature tends to interpret only what is self-serving as making much sense. Have you ever had the frustration of trying to explain something that is perfectly clear to one of your children, and having that child argue and claim that it doesn't make sense? It doesn't make sense because it doesn't pass the filter of the sensual flesh. And again, Scripture makes clear that God's wisdom is foolishness not just to the world, but to our own flesh. Does it really make sense that the first shall be last and the last shall be first? Does it really make sense to believe that when we seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us? The flesh gets in the way of good thinking and often takes the easy way out. And so, that's what James means by our pragmatic or sensual wisdom.

The devil ("demonic")

But thirdly, James does not discount the fact that some people are given insight or wisdom through demons. We saw last week that Peter took the Lord aside with a tidbit of wisdom, and said (in effect) "Going to the cross is not a good idea, Lord." And that bit of wisdom could have just as easily come from the world or from the flesh. But in this case, it did not. Jesus attributed it to Satan. He said, "Get behind me Satan." We saw that Peter's wisdom several verses earlier was revealed by the Father, and this bit of wisdom was revealed by Satan.

1 Timothy 4 speaks of doctrines of demons that would come into the church – doctrines like celibacy in the Roman Catholic church, vegetarianism, etc. Paul says, Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons… forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth… etc.

And so, even in the Christian's life, there can be four potential sources of wisdom. We need to be aware of those sources and be on guard. And depending on your mood and your situation, any one of those four wisdoms could make sense to you. We can't assume that just because something we read makes sense, that it is true wisdom. So how do we determine what is and is not Biblical wisdom? You take James' WQ test.

The first and most obvious question is, "Where did I get the idea from? Did it come from the Bible, or purely from below? Let me read the Bible and see if this wisdom matches what God says." And because we have spent plenty of time on the sufficiency of Scripture, I won't belabor that one. James has already adequately laid that foundation. But the second question is, "How do I do on these character tests?" Because WQ always has a certain character or flavor. Deduct a point for every characteristic in verses 14-16 that is present and add a point for every test in verses 17-18 that is present. By their fruits they can be judged. So let's look at some of the things that motivate the wisdom from below.

It shows motivations that do "not descend from above"

Bitter envy (vv. 14,16)

Verse 14 says, But if you have bitter envy… He mentions envy by itself in verse 16, but here he speaks of bitter envy because bitterness and envy often go hand in hand. A wisdom that wants the credit, and hopes others won't get the credit, and envies them when they do is not a wisdom from God. A wisdom that longs for the respect that other people get (that's the envy side) and is hurt because we don't get it (that's the bitter side), is not from God. True wisdom from above recognizes that we are nothing and deserve no credit – why? Because we know that such wisdom is totally revealed. We couldn't come up with it. God alone gets the credit. And so if you see yourself defending your ideas with envy and bitterness it may be a sign that you've got a wisdom that has to be defended because it comes from below. Many times people put heavy duty copyright notices on materials that they claim they got from God. Now whose material is this you are copyrighting? Now I have no problem with copyrighting to preserve your rights to continue to use and distribute wisdom God has given – because God gave it so that you could distribute it. But some people are so driven by envy that their works never get used. When we have God's wisdom we can relax because we know God alone could open our eyes to it, and God alone can open the eyes of the person I am talking to. No need for bitterness; no need for envy.

Self-Seeking (vv. 14,16)

In verses 14 and 16 he nails self-seeking of every sort as well. How is wisdom used? Is it freely dispensed or is it jealously held on to for my own personal benefit? Every one of the apostles castigated people who only gave out wisdom if there was something like cash in it for them. A person who has gained supernatural wisdom knows he has freely received and he cannot do but freely give. Are we generous with our wisdom, or are we self-seeking? Jesus indicated that God only gives wisdom to those who will serve. And he said that wisdom is justified by her children. And so when you see a wise person who is selfish and unserving with that wisdom, the likelihood is that the theological wisdom came from one of the other three sources. God will constantly be motivating the person with true wisdom to serve with it. I think of Jeremiah who was so hurt by rejection that he vowed not to speak God's Word. But that Word burned like fire and could not be kept in. He had to serve, he broke his vow, and he spoke. Selfish wisdom is not God's wisdom.

Pride (v. 14)

The same is true of pride. Verse 14 says, do not boast… And yet that is all that some forms of wisdom in the church seem to do. Knowledge puffs up, but true wisdom humbles people because they know they can't manufacture it. Another way of saying it is that IQ puffs up whereas WQ is humble.

Suppressing the truth (v. 14)

do not boast and lie against the truth. Why would a person who wants to claim to be wise and wants to teach – why would such a person be motivated to lie against the truth? Because Biblical truth often hurts, and is not popular. And a person who wants to be popular, and to appear wise, and to have the accolades of men is going to tend to streamline his teaching to tickle the ears of men rather than to give the wounds of a friend. You would be amazed at the number of pastors I have talked to who have said that they wouldn't touch certain passages and topics with a ten foot pole because they would lose members over it.

The fruit of these motivations

Confusion (v. 16)

And in verse 16 James says that the eventual result of such wisdom is confusion and evil triumphing. Is there a lot of evil triumphing in the American church? A lot of confusion? James says, For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. Now I don't think you have to look too far to see people who represent both poles of this wisdom equation. But I want you to examine your own heart. What characteristics of wisdom and what fruits of wisdom do you see in your own life? It will help you to evaluate to what degree you have been influenced by each of those four sources of wisdom.

Every Evil Thing (v. 16)

How Biblical wisdom manifests itself (vv. 17-18)

The source and character of this wisdom

Received from God ("from above")

Well, let's look at God-given wisdom. Verse 17 says, But the wisdom that is from above… It's a revelational wisdom. It requires the revelation of Scripture as well as the revelation of illumination. Without illumination you will be at a loss as to how to apply the Bible to life. Now it's true: Proverbs says that we need to dig in the Scripture for wisdom as if we were digging for gold, but it also indicates that God must give it. Anyone can accumulate facts from the Bible. Liberals do it all the time. But true wisdom is more than just facts of the Bible or understanding of the Bible. We saw in chapter 1 that it is something you ask God for when you are pulling out your hair in dealing with a perplexing issue at home, and in faith you ask for wisdom, and God guarantees that He will give the wisdom when we ask in faith. And sure enough, where five minutes before you didn't have a clue, you suddenly find yourself walking through the solution with a wisdom that just came to you from God applying the Scriptures. It happens all the time. And when you have experienced this God-given illumination, you know that you can't have it apart from sovereign dispensation. You pray for it; you lay claim to it by faith. It cannot be manufactured. You receive it from God.

Used under authority to God ("meekness of wisdom")

The second characteristic of this wisdom is that it is used under authority to God. Verse 13 speaks of the meekness of wisdom. The word "meek" had a couple nuances of meaning. One was "not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self-importance" and the other was being tamed. In the latter sense it was used to describe an animal that had been trained to submit. A horse that was meek was not always trying to go off to do its own thing. It was trained to serve the master with its strength. A third nuance was dependence. A person with wisdom isn't interested in novelty. He sticks to the tried and true that God has given. And so a person with true wisdom recognizes the source of the wisdom and doesn't have an overly inflated view of himself, he isn't interested in appealing to people with novelty, and sticks to where God leads. It is meek.

Used in service ("good conduct… works… sown")

And then, true Biblical wisdom is developed in the context of service and relationships with others. You will never get true wisdom in isolation from real life. Verse 13 mentions good conduct and works and verse 18 speaks of wisdom being sown in the lives of others. God doesn't give wisdom in the abstract. He gives it when and where it is needed. And once it is given, it must be used in further service. And we might ask ourselves if our wisdom has this character. Do we learn doctrine so that we can win an argument or win a person? Do we learn doctrine so that we can avoid embarrassment or so that we might please the Lord? Do we speak wisdom to show off or to serve? Do we beat people over the head with truth or are we loving them? Examining the fruit of our learning will help us to see whether we have an earthly, sensual, demonic wisdom or a wisdom from above.

The seven pillars of wisdom

Purity (holiness of life)

But the main tests of wisdom can be seen in verse 17. There are seven characteristics, and some scholars believe that these seven characteristics of wisdom are the seven pillars of wisdom referred to in Proverbs 9:1. Proverbs 9:1 says, Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars… If these seven pillars are not in place, the house of wisdom will fall.

And the first characteristic is purity. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure… And the order is important. If we put "willing to yield" before purity then we will never be interested in holiness because we will be constantly yielding to the wrong thing. When God gives wisdom, it is for the purpose of promoting His kingdom and His righteousness in our lives. And when we look at life as God looks at life, we will be motivated to promote holiness, that's going to be our desire. But when people pretend to have wisdom and they have no holiness of life and no purity, question the source of that wisdom.

Peaceableness (a joy to be around)

The second characteristic is peaceableness. Some people are always looking for a fight with their theology. Now sometimes fights come to us and we can't help it. But Paul said, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18). With all men. We shouldn't be delighting in fights. And yet some people who claim to be wise are incredibly pugnacious. Every place you see them you see them correcting false theology and poking holes in the sermon. No man upon the face of the earth will be completely free of errors, and if we do not have the fruit of being peaceable we will bring constant hurts, bad feelings and perhaps even division in the body. This is not to say that wisdom will ever tolerate heresy. Christ didn't, and we shouldn't. But it is to say that we should not always be arguing for the sake of arguing. One person said, "There are two kinds of cleverness... One consists of thinking of bright remarks in time to say them. The other consists of thinking of bright remarks in time not to say them." And earlier in the chapter we saw that we sometimes need to hold our tongues in check and ask ourselves, "Will this serve the other person growth in the Lord or will it only serve my own ego?"

Gentleness (considerate, forbearing, not easily provoked)

The third word is a little harder to nail down. It can have the meaning of gentleness, but includes the ideas of being considerate, forbearing and not easily provoked. Based on this characteristic, you have probably met numerous people who were brilliant, but hardly forbearing. They were very easily provoked and were not gentle. Again, you need to question the source of such wisdom. Think of these seven pillars as the seven legs on which wisdom walks. If one or two legs have been amputated, it may still be wisdom. But if the person's wisdom doesn't have any legs, you might question whether the wisdom is alive or if it is real. James doesn't think so. Just as faith without works is dead, wisdom without works is dead.

Paul told the Thessalonians, But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. (1 Thess. 2:7) Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2, But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition Again, evaluate your own life. And you can evaluate ministries out there that think they are the only ones that have the truth and who make a living (not at positive ministry) but at tearing other people down. That is not Biblical wisdom. Even with the harshest of prophets, God's commission was not just to tear down, but also to build up.

Are you harsh and unreasonable in the way you talk to someone from another theological persuasion? or are you gentle and patient? If we have experienced God opening the eyes of our understanding and giving us wisdom, we can have total confidence that God can open that other person's eyes as well. We don't have to force the issue. We can present the truth and leave the results with God. Lack of gentleness may indicate that we are arguing out of self-seeking desires and pride. There's got to be a balance between being a wimpy butter-head that has no form and a head butter that is a rock-head.

Willingness to yield (reasonableness)

The fourth pillar of wisdom is a reasonableness and a willingness to listen and if need be, to yield and admit wrong. James goes on to say "willing to yield." Again, this exposes so much of what goes for wisdom in the church as being non-wisdom. The Greek word means literally open to reason. Here are two dictionary definitions: "open to reason, willing to be persuaded." Another dictionary says, "pertaining to being easily persuaded, with the implication of being open to reason or willing to listen — ‘one who is easily persuaded, open to reason.'" As Larry says, if you are a rock head, you are lacking in this wisdom. Some people will not give up an argument even if their reasons are weak. It is a pride issue. The old saying goes, "A wise man changes his mind. A fool never." We need to keep that in mind. If we have never had to change our minds or tell people we were wrong, it may possibly be that it is not God's wisdom we are defending but our pride. "A wise man changes his mind. A fool never." It is doubtful that you have never had a time when you were wrong. If that is the case, then the wise thing to do is to admit to your adversary that you are wrong or at least that you don't know. And if you can't bring yourself to do that, why not? If you have been unwilling to yield when you could not defend your position from Scripture, it may be from one of two reasons: 1) you are right but don't have enough facts or 2) you are not defending wisdom. If you don't have enough facts, you should in humility say so and be willing to study the issue more. Be easily convinced from the Scripture.

Full of mercy and other good fruits (helpful)

Fifthly, he will be full of mercy. Why? Why does he show mercy to people who are theologically messed up and who don't have wisdom to parent or to live in victory? It's because we know so profoundly that if it wasn't for God's opening our eyes, we would still be messed up. It's also a recognition that we potentially have other messed up areas that we still are not aware of. The person who regularly receives wisdom is so humbled at God's mercy in his life, that he has mercy on others who don't because he knows that only God can open their eyes. Can you see the logic in James' argument? But this pillar isn't just mercy. It says, full of mercy and good fruits. If the Spirit's wisdom is powerfully present, the Spirit is powerfully present and all the fruits of the spirit will be manifested.

Impartial (humility)

The next characteristic of wisdom from above is without partiality. This was the same word used in James 2:1 to speak of divisions in the body or favoritism. Literally it means, "undecided," but it refers to a prejudicial judgment before we know people. We should be undecided until we have the facts. Otherwise it becomes a situation of "I've got my mind made up. Don't confuse me with the facts." That is being partial. Well, once again, it is so easy for us to treat other theological positions as idiotic without even reading them. Many people are partial against our position because they judge us as wrong without having read a single article on theonomy. But we can have the same partiality.

Without hypocrisy (sincerity)

And then finally, James says that it is without hypocrisy. One dictionary said, "pertaining to being genuine and sincere, and hence lacking in pretense or show — ‘genuine, sincere.'" Don't pretend to know more than you do. Don't put on a mask or pretend to be something you are not. True wisdom admits to our lack of knowledge and is not insecure by such lack. Let me give an example: Perhaps you have argued yourself into a corner and because of pride you just don't want to give up, so you start stretching and making guesses as if they were statements and begin hoping you can bluff your way through this debate. A person with true wisdom is secure because he knows his wisdom comes from God and he can't take credit for what he has, and he doesn't need to worry about what he doesn't know. He will continue to study, but God has given him all the wisdom that he needs for this particular time. Be willing to admit you are wrong or that you don't know. Back in the days of Mark Twain, a young man was being interviewed to be a pilot of a steamboat on the Mississippi River. The interviewer doubted that he knew the river and asked him if he knew where all the rocks were. He replied, "No, sir, I do not know where all the rocks are, but I know where they aren't." He got the job. A person can be mature in wisdom and still have vast amounts that he will not know. Don't ever confuse maturity in wisdom with a high IQ or vast memory of trivia. From God's perspective you are mature in wisdom when you have been greatly changed in character and action. Does this passage describe you? If not, begin the process by asking God for wisdom now. James 1 promises that as you humble yourself before God He will give it. But if you merely want to grow in doctrine without being changed, God will not grant your request. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The Fruit of this Wisdom



Peace evidenced in how the wise man teaches

Peace produced in others

The last verse indicates that God's goal in giving wisdom is to cause us to grow and through us to cause others to grow. It is always designed to bring forth good fruit. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. Often the NIV interprets the text rather than translating the text. But I like their interpretation here, and the literal rendering is a bit tough to follow. So here's how the NIV interprets it: Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. In other words, people with wisdom will be motivated to be peacemakers who sow in the lives of others in such a way that it raises a harvest of righteousness. Wisdom that God gives is not theoretical. It is lived out. It is real people treating other people wisely as God does.

How do we grow in wisdom? There are people in Scripture who had wisdom and lost it. You are either going forward or backward with wisdom. So how do we grow? When God grants you wisdom, be willing to immediately implement it if we want God to give us more wisdom. Wisdom is given in the context of service and obedience. So rather than waiting for a tingling feeling to go down your spine, you should ask, and go forth in action with the expectation that God will come through. We can be change We can develop a high WQ. Wisdom must be lived, and as we live it, we will be granted more. May the wisdom that we share with others bear these characteristics, to His glory. Amen.

Wisdom Quotient is part of the James series published on January 18, 2004

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