Man has always been seeking wisdom. The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek, ‘love of wisdom’; and a philosopher is a ‘lover of wisdom’. Not only philosophers but the common man on the street has asked questions about the meaning of life or why we exist.
It is almost instinctive for us to want to know answers to some of life’s profoundest questions. This is good, for it sets us on the path of seeking for the truth.
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her (Pro 3:13-15).”
The ancient Greeks, especially the Athenians, were known to be seekers of wisdom. Western philosophy was said to be born in Athens. They were curious about ideas and spent their time discovering and arguing over them.
Luke reveals a particular habit of the Athenians: “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing (Acts 17:21).”
What is wisdom? Is it only profound knowledge? James asks the question in a slightly different, more practical way in his epistle.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom (Jas 3:13).”
Knowledge is necessary to wisdom, nonetheless knowledge alone does not make one wise. Wisdom involves right behaviour borne of sound knowledge. James draws a difference two kinds of wisdom: earthly and heavenly.
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (Jas 3:14-16).”
One may be knowledgeable yet overcome by pride, envy and contentiousness. History has known men and women who used their knowledge to manipulate others and destroy their enemies. Such is not wisdom.
Heavenly wisdom, on the other hand, is manifested through certain qualities.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (Jas 3:17-18).”
It is pure, untainted by pride, envy and contentiousness. It is gentle, not quarrelsome. It is open to reason, not bigoted. It is full of mercy and good fruits, not mean and unsympathetic. It is without partiality and hypocrisy, not deceitful and two-faced. It is peace-loving, a characteristic of the Prince of Peace.
This is the wisdom we are to seek. As it is wisdom that is from above, it can be discovered in the word that came to us from above—the inspired word of God. Paul commended Timothy for obtaining true wisdom by such means.
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2Ti 3:15).”
The truly wise person is one who diligently seeks God’s will in His word and lives a godly life, according to God’s word. Degrees, diplomas and certificates are not the measure of wisdom. Sound knowledge and godliness is the yardstick.
The wise person is God-fearing. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (Pro 9:10).” He/she hears the words of Christ and is always ready and humble to obey.
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Mat 7:24-27).”
What a vivid picture of a wise person in contrast to the foolish!
The Bible gives us so many descriptions of a wise person. For example, he is careful with his choice of words and when to speak. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise (Pro 10:19).”
The wise person is a soul-winner for Christ. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Pro 11:30).”
He/she is attentive and self-controlled, not easily given over to outbursts of anger, nor too quick to offer an opinion on anything he might not actually know enough about. In other words, a wise person is not a smart aleck.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God (Jas 1:19-20).”
Are we seeking the wisdom from above, or merely making a show of being wise? May our ‘houses’ stand in the midst of the storms of life because we have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise.