Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. . . . the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13, 17)
How do I live a good life? James says if I’m wise, I’ll understand my need for the wisdom that comes from God, and realize the folly of the world’s version of wisdom. If I’m unsure whether what I’m experiencing as wisdom is from God or the worldly kind, there are some critical factors to consider.
Motivation: The wisdom that comes from God is pure: the real deal, with nothing added or taken away. It’s unadulterated by individual or group self-interest, a need for self-validation, self-promotion, or a “feel better” solution. The wisdom God gives brings glory to Him, not me. Its motive power is God and not any idea of human superiority. Before I can receive this kind of wisdom, I have to let go of what the world may have taught me, or I may have concluded on my own. That takes real humility, and real humility takes real vigilance.
Characteristics: The peace-loving aspect of wisdom is evident from God’s overarching goal of reconciling each person to Himself through the blood of His own Son. Peace-loving wisdom moves toward healing — between individuals, communities, and even nations — by reconciling them to and with God’s ways as right ways. Wisdom that comes from God will never have conflict and division as objectives. It never seeks to divide and conquer, but instead to conquer division.
Wisdom from God is not unfeeling, but considers the condition of its hearers. The communication of this wisdom takes into account and empathizes with pain, grief, anger, betrayal, depression, the need for reassurance and hope. Its goal is to impart truth in a way and with a measure that can be absorbed.
God imparts wisdom that is submissive to the leading of His Holy Spirit. It waits for God’s timing and the Spirit’s inspiration as to what, when, where, how and with whom to share it.
Godly wisdom is born of having personally received His mercy, and responding to that gift with a desire to show mercy to others. The truth that mercy triumphs over judgment puts me in the frame of mind that can produce the fruit of the Spirit.
God’s wisdom is impartial because God has no favorites. If I receive God-given wisdom, I’ll be willing and eager to share it with everyone, and not just those I favor or who meet with my approval.
Finally, any wisdom that comes from God is sincere: genuine, honest, and without pretence. It will resonate with my spirit and be in line with His nature and character as revealed in Scripture.
There are many versions of what constitutes “the good life,” but only one that is true. Whatever my circumstances, debits or credits, I have the best life possible because I know Jesus, I love Jesus, and the desire of my heart is to be more like Jesus. Despite all my flaws and stumbles, His unmatched patience keeps Him right there with me, and His wisdom always available. Understanding that reality and reaching for it is the wisest choice I can ever make.