Self Test: Do my own words align with God’s wisdom?
It’s no mystery what God’s wisdom looks like. Jesus’ brother James said it straight out:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let that person show it by good behavior, by works with the humility of wisdom (James 3:13).
So, first of all, wisdom comes from those who do good works. Remember that James strongly encouraged the church to good works by loving their neighbors. If we apply James’ truth to the current American political climate, loving neighbors works for both sides of the aisle: how we show God’s mercy to millions of immigrants and minorities as well as to millions of innocent infants still in their mother’s wombs. Government policy cannot change hearts on either side of the isle. Only surrender to Christ can.
humility of wisdom? what did James mean by that?
James goes on to elaborate:
If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
don’t boast and tell lies against the truth.
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above,
for where jealousy is,
and selfish ambition,
there is disorder
and every evil practice (James 3:14-16).
Anyone notice any disorder lately? This is a difficult spiritual principle that many of us miss: It doesn’t matter how true our words may be, if spoken with envy or arrogance (dehumanizing others), it’s not God’s wisdom. The content of our words is important, of course, but our underlying motivates and attitudes determine whether those words bring life or more hurt and strife.
Statements of truth: Like everyone else, I see through a “mirror indirectly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I’m not omniscient, so I don’t see all the factors. I don’t have the full truth of the matter, but only a measure of truth, only one spot of influence in Christ’s body, not the whole thing (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 4:13-16).
Statements of deception: It’s not me who has bitter envy (we may believe), it’s the other guys!
I’m right, you’re wrong, and I’m not going to be quiet until you agree with me!
According to James, speaking with this attitude cannot be God’s wisdom. Both sides accuse the other of selfish motives, while both sides harbor selfish motives. But wisdom means honoring and listening to the other.
Yes, of course it’s essential that the church represent the Lord in the political conversation by speaking his truth in love as the Spirit leads. But what we speak is not God’s wisdom if it demands it’s own way (Eph 4:13-16). A demanding attitude aligns with the original sin (Gen 3:5-6)—the desire to be wise without surrender to God: I am god, I have the right to control, and you must agree with me. These are the “infants” who are “tossed about by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching” [or political rhetoric] (Ephesians 4:14). Only God’s Son is righteous enough judge—to throw the first stone (John 5:27). The rest of us have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
A self-righteous attitude exposes a hurting heart screaming for love—believing that love comes from human respect rather than the security of God’s eternal grace. Selfish, dehumanizing attitudes are biting on both sides of the aisle.
But if we receive the Lord’s overwhelming love we know that someone is listening to our cries. He not only listens, but ministers genuine healing, justice and direction. It no longer matters whether other people agree or not. If we bask in the undeserved honor that God has given us, we no longer feel the need to demand respect. Rather than trying to control the waves and winds of worldly politics, we rest with confidence and inner peace in Christ.
what God’s wisdom does look like
Enough about what God’s wisdom is not. James goes on the describe what it is. This is how to recognize Jesus’ attitude and voice in the midst of chaos:
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure
full of mercy
and good fruits
here’s the self-test using the plumb line James gave us
With courage we bare our own hearts (not pointing fingers) before our forgiving, healing God, evaluating our attitudes and motives:
- Did my last conversation bear the fruit of peace, sowing reconciliation rather than division?
- Were my words not only true but gentle, treating the other as a soul made in God’s image?
- Am I humbly surrendering in obedience to the Lord, not boasting in my own righteousness?
- Are my words and behavior nonjudgmental and full of mercy, even toward political leaders or those who disagree with me?
- Did my conversation nourish hearts to grow good, lasting fruit rather than discord?
- Am I speaking with hypocrisy, blaming others while refusing to listen to them, remaining blind to my own part in the sin?
James’ words are hard. It takes courage to prayerfully expose our private self to the Lord’s Spirit and Word—exposing to him the stink within. But he is the gentle shepherd. “Come to me,” he calls us, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (yes, even when the heavy burden and chaos of politics broils around us). “For my yoke is easy to carry,” Jesus says, “and my burden is light.”
All Scripture marked in quotes is taken from the Lexham English Bible. Other Scripture references are translated directly from the Greek New Testament (NA28) using Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament.