Scripture often highlights the importance of wisdom and Proverbs often links wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens; 20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up, And clouds drop down the dew. Proverbs 3:19–20 (NKJV)
3 Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; 4 By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3–4 (NKJV)
As I have written before I connect these two passages to 1 Corinthians 12:28 where Paul speaks of the importance of apostles, prophets and teachers in building the church. As a practical application I regularly pray for apostolic wisdom, prophetic wisdom and teaching understanding. I see a distinction between practical wisdom, which we all should be seeking, and wisdom from above.
Over the years in conversation, I have many times made the distinction between wisdom and knowledge using the example of being on the road in the path of a moving vehicle. If I simply possess knowledge, I have the awareness that I need to move out of the way. Wisdom is moving. In our current cultural context, we know all of the things coming against the church. We need to apply wisdom to rightly respond. Yet we need more than practical wisdom. We don’t want to set aside or lose practical wisdom, we want to add to it wisdom from above.
James does two things in relation to wisdom, he exhorts us to ask God for it and he also contrasts earthly and godly wisdom, wisdom from above.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (NKJV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13–18 (NKJV)
In contrasting these two types of wisdom James provides an easy way to discern the source of the wisdom. Earthly wisdom produces confusion, is sensual (literally soulish, in Greek) and doesn’t produce peace. Wisdom from above is marked by meekness (not weakness), purity, gentleness and a willingness to not fight over the wrong things. Wisdom from above is marked by peace rather than contention.
Now, we need to be careful to not confuse wisdom from above with passivity. Paul demonstrated wisdom from above in Galatians 2 when he publicly confronted Peter over his hypocrisy in relation to the gospel. Most of the New Testament letters are addressing issues in the church, applying wisdom from above. We are called to stand for truth. What James is getting at is not being contentious for the sake of furthering our own agenda.
Now, practical application. As I walk with Jesus, I cannot walk down the road of my culture where it is at odds with Him. This includes the current gender agenda, abortion and numerous other things. If I simply apply practical wisdom, I may speak out against them or simply refuse to endorse them. My actions may be different if I am seeking wisdom from above.
I will share a practical story I heard Steve Thompson share a few years ago. A friend of his was praying about what to do regarding an abortion clinic in his area. The Lord told him to become friends with the owner of the clinic (wisdom from above?). He reached out and began to develop a relationship. Over time he was to meet with the fellow one day and the Lord gave him a vision where he saw the man sitting at his kitchen table contemplating a plate of blue pills. When they met, he shared his vision with the man who ran the abortion clinic. The man who ran the clinic shared that he was suicidal over his lifestyle, repented, gave his heart to Jesus and closed the clinic. Wisdom from above. We may not be engaged in something this dramatic. We do however need to know how to respond to the many things we encounter in our daily walk in our culture. Let’s seek wisdom from above.