Evaluating Self-Perceived Wisdom
How is it that otherwise good Christians can descend into unresolved conflict? Perhaps you’ve seen it before, church members who used to fellowship together now entrenched in the “wisdom” of their “side” and willing to promote their cause to the detriment of the unity and peace in the Body of Christ. We also see the same thing happen in relationships of marriage. Two followers of Jesus who covenanted before God and witnesses, “Till death do us part,” now willing to take a different walk to divorce court citing “irreconcilable differences.”
To be sure there are times when the reality of “irreconcilable differences” is legitimate that results in the end of a marriage or in the fracture of a local church; however, each time it happens, even in the apparent necessity of the occasion, it’s tragic, broken, and exceedingly sad.
I have to wonder, though, if many times when we see sides being drawn up that a good dose of James 3:13-18 might provide a biblical corrective? Each side in a conflict is typically convinced they are right; after all, if they didn’t have that perspective there probably wouldn’t be a conflict. Christians in dispute many times cite biblical reasons and provide scriptural references bolstering the veracity of their settled opinion on an issue or situation. Given this reality a person feels justified to take next-steps to make sure their position is understood and their way is promoted.
When we are convinced that we are right and another person is wrong and we are tempted to take it to the next level of conflict, perhaps it would be good to first evaluate ourselves to see if we are personally in possession of the heavenly wisdom or the demonic wisdom described in the following passage:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13–18, ESV)
So, how do we know when our wisdom is demonic or heavenly?
Characteristics of Demonic Wisdom:
- Bitter jealousy is a key indicator that our wisdom is demonic.
- Selfish ambition (“my way or the highway,” “I’m right you’re wrong” attitudes and demands) is a sure indicator that our wisdom is demonic.
- When disorder is present then that is a clear indicator that one or both parties are plagued by bitter jealousy or selfish ambition.
Characteristics of Heavenly Wisdom:
- Our attitude is one of meekness – a quiet humility that doesn’t demand from others and doesn’t push back when someone pushes you.
- It’s peaceable (desires peace over promotion of self-perspective or “side” – willing to be wronged and love anyway)
- It’s gentle (as opposed to harsh – including speech) – “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” (Proverbs 16:21, ESV)
- Open to reason (willing to actually consider someone else’s opinion)
- Full of mercy (willing to show mercy – not give what is deserved)
- Full of good fruits (Galatians 5:19-26 – contrast of works of flesh and fruit of Spirit)
- Impartial and sincere (no favoritism and no fakeness or pretending)
- Sows seeds of peace (Recognizes that actual change in others is NOT gained by harshness and division; rather, it happens through peaceful processes in reliance on the Holy Spirit)
May God grant us all a firm commitment to pursue, possess, and portray heavenly wisdom to the glory of God in the health of His church and Christian marriages.