by Kevin Phipps
How do we navigate life in the information age? Data, figures, and statistics are instantly available to any who search. We no longer need to wait for the nightly news, much less the morning paper to get in the know about what is going on. But more often than not, the onslaught of information produces weariness. The weariness doesn’t just come from the burden of knowing too much, but from the need to exercise constant discernment, to acknowledge that pristine objectivity is impossible, and to see that differing worldviews can produce wildly divergent narratives to explain events and statistics.
Living in the information age often feels like drowning in a pool of mayonnaise – you’re surrounded and don’t know which way is up.
How should we interpret the abundance of information and then make actual decisions that will impact our lives and others? We need wisdom. Wisdom is a theme we have returned to several times in these devotionals. Why? It is challenging to live as a faithful and God honoring disciple of Jesus in a fallen world. It was before the information age, and our day has brought new challenges. While there are many situations in our lives where drawing a line from the ten commandments to our circumstances is easy, there are also many other situations that we face that are several steps removed from what is clearly revealed in Scripture. We need wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to apply information in the right way. It is the ability to apply knowledge from special revelation (truth supernaturally revealed in the Bible) to the crisis or decision we are facing – even when there is no specific chapter and verse. Wisdom is also the ability to apply knowledge from general revelation (truth revealed in the created order) to a crisis or decision.
James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we can ask for it and God always gives it to those who ask in faith (James 1:5-8.) It is important to note that James doesn’t just tell us to ask for wisdom, he also equips us to recognize wisdom that is from God.
13Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18
There is true wisdom, wisdom from above. There is also false wisdom, wisdom from below. How do we discern between the two? Well, we should first reject any supposed wisdom that doesn’t align with the testimony of special revelation or the message of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.) And then here in James chapter three we have Holy Spirit inspired instructions on how to evaluate whether wisdom is from above or below.
James identifies wisdom from below as being void of meekness (James 3:13.) The character of wisdom from above is humbleness, not arrogance or pridefulness. What marks wisdom from below is jealousy and selfish ambition. Wisdom from below will produce disorder and leads to every vile practice (James 3:16.) It produces terrible fruit because of its source; it is from that which is earthly, unspiritual, demonic (James 3:15.)
On the other hand, what marks heavenly wisdom is purity, peaceableness, gentleness, and reasonableness (James 3:17a.) Wisdom from above is full of mercy, produces good fruit, and prioritizes peace (James 3:17b-18.) We can identify the source of the wisdom by what it promotes and produces.
I am constantly praying for wisdom from above, for myself and for you. May we walk in heavenly wisdom and by God’s grace see a harvest of righteousness.