You have heard the proverb, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This is wise and true. When I am away from my wife and kids for work, I am always so eager to see them again, and our reunion is always sweet.
But you have also heard, “Out of sight, out of mind.” This is wise and true. When I haven’t seen someone for a while, inevitably I start to think of them less, unless I make a conscious effort to do so.
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So which is true wisdom? They both make sense. But they contradict. Perhaps there is truth in both of them? Perhaps one is more true than the other?
And beyond this fairly shallow example, in a world full of contradictory opinions and contradictory voices and contradictory proclamations and contradictory views on Scripture and God, how can we know what is truly wise? I regularly hear two sides of a story and think, “Huh. They both sound like they make sense.”
When Satan tempted Adam and Eve into sin in the Garden, his arguments didn’t sound foolish, but wise (Gen 3.4-5). It was the very appearance of wisdom that deceived them.
So how can we avoid this?
True wisdom comes from the Lord (Pr 2.6). It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12.8). How then can we determine what is the Lord’s wisdom, verses other voices that sound wise, but aren’t of God at all?
Our first answer, as always, is through the Scriptures. That is always our first check. What does God’s Word say on the matter? That is the Christ-follower’s ultimate authority (2Tim 3.16-17).
But at times, not every situation so easily fits into a clear biblical mandate.
Or at times, one can find biblical evidence that supports both sides of a discussion.
James gives us another biblical tool to help us discern whether one is hearing God’s wisdom or not:
13 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. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But 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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3.13-18)
So here we are a given a helpful little tool to aid us in our discernment.
We are warned against “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom – which of course is no wisdom at all – which has its roots in envy and selfish ambition. Like with the serpent in the Garden, there can be something that sounds like wisdom but is actually of the enemy. Envy and ambition can be smooth talkers, can justify a lot of things, can sound really good, and can maybe even can masquerade as wisdom – but such things are not from God.
God’s wisdom, on the other hand, reflects godly qualities. The voice of Heaven’s wisdom is full of purity, peace, consideration, submission, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.
If the voices we are listening to line up with God’s Word, and reflect these wisdom qualities, then we can trust that this is indeed wisdom that comes from God.
If the voices we are listening to do not line up with God’s Word, or if they seem to but do not reflect these qualities, and especially if they reflect opposing qualities like impurity, division, rudeness, rebellion, judgment, bad fruit, partiality, and insincerity, then we should rightly question why we would think that these voices reflect the wisdom that comes from God.
And to be certain, I don’t know any godly and wise person that reflects all of these qualities perfectly, or does so every single time that they speak. But as we look to patterns, to qualities that we are seeing consistently in a person over time, we can get a strong sense of what it is that we are listening to.
We are told that there is “wisdom” out there that is actually earthly and demonic. And there is wisdom out there that is from Heaven.
To state the obvious, the wisdom of Heaven is better. May we who follow Christ be marked by seeking it out.
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