2. Lived Wisdom: James
The root of all wisdom is faithful dependence upon God
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Wisdom is more than knowledge. It requires lived experience. For example, you can learn about sailboats, but you must get out on the water to possess sailing wisdom. You can study medicine in school, but it’s in hospital rooms that facts and principles come to life. You can believe in the value of perseverance, but you have no real insight to offer on the subject until you have pushed through a challenge. Experience gives rise to wisdom, and more often than not, it is difficult experiences that compel us to put knowledge to practice.
This is why James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells followers of Christ to consider their trials a gift! He’s writing to a group of Christians who are suffering and facing persecution for their faith, and he encourages them to embrace these difficult circumstances as an opportunity to develop spiritual maturity - lived wisdom! With a collection of proverbs, James unpacks the nature of godly wisdom.
Wisdom in relation to God looks like:
● Remaining faithful to God under trial (James 1:12) while patiently awaiting God’s return (James 5:7)
● Acknowledging that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17)
● Being doers of the Word, not just hearers (James 1:22)
● Humbly submitting to God’s sovereign will over our plans and agendas (James 4:13-15)
● Finding security in God, not our possessions (James 5:1-6)
Wisdom in relation to others looks like:
● Being careful with our words, acknowledging their power to hurt (James 1:19)
● Taking care of others, specifically orphans and widows (James 1:27) and those lacking in basic needs (James 2:15)
● Showing impartiality to people regardless of their status (James 2:1)
● Promoting peace by turning away from mean-spirited ambition, boasting or jealousy (James 3:14-18)
● Confessing our sins to each other and praying for one another (James 5:18)
● Lovingly pursuing friends who are wandering from God’s truth (James 5:19-20)
None of us comes close to upholding all these exhortations, and James acknowledges this reality when he says, “For we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2).” So, James advises us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5). Prayer is foundational to wisdom.
When life feels out of control, we ask for God to give us confidence in his sovereignty.
When someone makes us angry, we ask God for self-control over our words.
In times of ease and flourishing, we ask God to keep us humble and dependent upon him.
In a competitive and self-serving workplace, we ask God to give us a spirit of peace.
To pray and ask God for help requires humility, and humility is not natural to us. We also can’t teach ourselves to be humble. Really, we receive humility by embracing our weakness and lack of godly wisdom. When trials come, we humbly ask God to do the work of developing wisdom within us.
The root of all wisdom is faithful dependence upon God, and what better to teach us dependence than circumstances we feel ill equipped to handle? In whatever you might be facing, you can consider your trials all joy (James 1:2) because they keep you close to your heavenly Father, the source of all wisdom.
RESPOND: Letting the exhortations of James speak to and convict you, take a moment to ask God to develop godly wisdom in the areas you feel lacking.