Some think wisdom comes from gaining an education or having significant life experience. Having an advanced degree or living a long time is no guarantee someone will become wise. While both an education and a life of experience have some value, neither makes a person wise. True wisdom, the kind that James described as “the wisdom from above” (James 3:17) is not of an earthly origin. God’s wisdom is from above, above all our natural abilities and accomplishments, things a person who does not believe in Christ can accomplish on their own without God.
James opened his discourse on the subject of wisdom saying, “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). The proof that we understand the ways of God and walk in His wisdom is displayed most clearly when we live an honorable life. This honor is not something earned. Honor is like grace. It is a gift we give without prequalifying the recipient.
When we choose to live honorably, no matter what our status in life or our level of experience might be, honor becomes the doorway through which God’s wisdom and understanding will pass and be released. At times this happens to the consternation of those who live without honor and rely on status or experience as their qualifiers without possessing the character required to be known as a person of honor.
What mitigates against honor is something James also addressed, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind” (James 3:16).
To become wise will require that we put to death our competitive jealousy and any form of personal ambition that pridefully tries to divide us from others promoting self over others at the expense of sacrificial love.
James was writing to believers, not to those who do not know God. Some of the disorders we see in the Church can be traced back to a lack of honor within our ranks. It is always about the condition of our hearts. That is where we see most clearly whether or not we understand the ways of God and walk in His wisdom.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Garris Elkins