“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18 from James 3:1-18)
Just a bit of inconsequential trivia. The evening before I wrote this I decided I did not have enough peace in my spirit to write about these verses. I thought how could I authentically write about peace if I did not feel peace? So I skipped last night. And here I am tonight, more at peace but not sure what to write.
Conventional thinking would say that wisdom is smarts, intelligence, knowledge and know-how. Wisdom comes from books, lessons, education, and study. Wisdom may not always be pure, not necessarily peaceable, and not especially gentle. Wisdom is more likely, according to conventional thinking, stern and tough, demanding and absolute, and always has an opinion, and always, always is looking out for its own best interests. Conventional thinking would be wrong though. And if you have bought into the conventional thinking about wisdom, you would be wrong too, and not wise.
The writer of the book of James makes some explanations about the type of wisdom he is talking about (although in my opinion the wisdom he is talking about is the only type of wisdom that is worthwhile and worthy of the name); “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, [in other words, using book learning to get a head rather than help others] do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (Verses 13 to 16 with inserts mine)
Earthly “wisdom” lasts only as long as the body does, and really serves no good purpose. But heavenly wisdom gives the wise person the discernment to live well and to minister to others. If learning that comes from a book or education or life experience contributes to the well-being (shalom) of another, then earthly wisdom has been put into the service of spiritual heavenly wisdom, and this is a good thing. So you see gentle reader, I am not against the gaining of knowledge or the knowing of information, facts, skills, experience etc. Having had at least 20 years of education I am hardly likely to be AGAINST intelligence and intellect. But to paraphrase Paul, if I have “smarts” but have no caring and compassion for creation and humanity I am as much good as an outdated web search. (Not sure if that analogy makes sense, but I think you get the idea.) Some of the wisest people I know do not depend on their intellect but the spirit and soul to advice and guide them.
I have not said much about the positive attributes that the writer of the book of James has paired with wisdom. But I do not think I need to. Being in right relationship with all of humanity, insuring justice for all of humanity, and working towards shalom for all humanity (consider creation to be a part of this also) shows better wisdom than any type of education you could mention. The wise do not have to be “smart”, just attuned to God’s care and mission in the world.
May you gentle reader have the wisdom that comes from above so you may be of good service to all of those who are with you below. Selah! And wisdom-infused shalom for your day.