The Wisdom From Above and Below


As believers, our deepest longings for significance, purpose, and fulfillment can only be met in the knowledge of the Author of life.

According to James, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Without a relationship with the Source of wisdom, we are limited solely to human shrewdness and craft: “This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:15-16).

The Scriptures draw a sharp contrast—earthly wisdom leads to disorder, evil, ugliness, and disappointment; divine wisdom bears the fruit of order, goodness, beauty, and fulfillment. The tragedy is that so many people pursue earthly wisdom hoping to attain the fruit that can only be produced by the wisdom that comes from above.

Divine wisdom is “a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast” (Proverbs 3:18).

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her. (Proverbs 3:13-15)

What do we want out of life? We may crave wealth, prestige, power, and popularity, but these are the longings of the outer, not the inner self. As believers in Christ, we “joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22), and our deepest longings for significance, purpose, and fulfillment can only be met in the knowledge of the Author of life.

Wisdom is the skill that forges beauty out of the raw material of our lives. Because it is a skill, no one naturally possesses wisdom; it must be cultivated and developed. This is why there are so many parental exhortations in the first nine chapters of Proverbs to pursue this most priceless and practical of all skills:

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

But how do we pursue wisdom? The answer is found in the next verse: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). This wisdom comes from above (James 3:17), and we can never hope to attain it on our own.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth.

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