Finding Wisdom



Wendy Ochs


A man feared that his wife wasn’t hearing as well as she used to and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem. The doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss. 

“Here’s what you do,” said the doctor, “stand about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.” 

That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He said to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see what happens.” Then in a normal tone he asked,“Honey, what’s for dinner?” No response. 

So the husband moved closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife and repeats,“Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still no response. 

Next he moves into the dining room where he was about 20 feet from his wife and asked,“Honey, what’s for dinner?” Again he gets no response. 

So, he walked up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s for dinner?”Again there is no response. 

So he walked right up behind her. “Honey, what’s for dinner?”  

“Ralph, for the fifth time I’ve said, chicken!” 

 Source: As told in Cathy L. Wray, The Perfect Blend Devotional 

 “Ralph, for the fifth time I’ve said, chicken!”  

 This was not the answer Ralph was expecting!  Ralph, of course, out of love & concern for his wife, sought an answer to a problem he thought he already knew – his wife couldn’t hear very well.  Instead, he gained a new insight – perhaps the problem was within -  it was him that needed the hearing aid! 


Today’s topic from the Book of James is Wisdom…what is wisdom, esp. Godly wisdom?  And how do we find it?   


James 3:13  - “Are any of you wise and understanding?  Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom.” 
First thing that James tell us wisdom is: WISDOM IS HUMILITY 

Socrates, the Greek Philosopher who lived 450 years before Jesus was born, one claimed to be the wisest man alive, because, quote: “ I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” 

Now, Socrates was not a man of God – he lived before Jesus in a place where many gods were worshipped, but he does share the insight that the wisest humans are those who recognize how little they really know and understand 

I think James would describe this knowledge as the beginning of godly wisdom 

For James, there are two kinds of wisdom: earthly wisdom that comes from “bitter jealously and selfish ambition” – this wisdom leads us to believe that living a good life means getting what we want, thinking we have all the answers, placing ourselves above others. 

 Godly wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above, is shown by a humble lifestyle, that is “pure, peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair and genuine.”  This wisdom acts out of concern for others, a desire to live peaceably and to care for those around us.  This wisdom understands that we as humans know little – we must rely on God to show us the way to live.   

But James understands these types of wisdom are at conflict within us – 4:1 – “what is the source of conflict among you?  What is the source of your disputes?  Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives?”  

We want to live with Godly wisdom – we want to know God’s will for our lives, we want to put others before ourselves, we want to be kind and good and generous 

But our desires for the things that proclaim wisdom of this world – material wealth that tempts us into thinking it will bring us security; titles/prestige/fame/the perfect job that tempt us into thinking that they will bring us worth – they lead to bitter jealously and selfish ambition.  They keep us from living out Godly wisdom. 

So it must begin with a recognition that we don’t have all the answers, the wisdom of the world is powerful and tempting, and so WE MUST RELY ON GOD.  WISDOM IS HUMILITY. 

(We must understand that God’s Word in flesh, Jesus, was wisdom from above living with wisdom down below – Jesus showed us godly wisdom.  Jesus lived …) 

James 3:13 – “Are any of you wise and understanding?  Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom.” 

The Book of James is often referred to as the New Testament Book of Wisdom.  Like Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, it consists of moral exhortations….notice that these aren’t related to genius speculative thought, these words of wisdom literature are associated with practical good behavior. 

James is telling us that: WISDOM IS ACTION 

Wisdom is not in the head, but in our behavior.  It is a way of life, not a way of thinking or believing.  It isn’t about good ideas but about good lives.

Now, I hope I’m not insulting anyone, but I’ve always thought one of the greatest and easiest jobs would be working as a consultant…I get to tell people what they should do but I don’t actually have to do it! 

We’ve all had problems – in our homes, with friends, in our work places.  Have you ever tried to remove yourself from the problem and think about how you might tell someone else to handle the problem?  I’ve noticed that when I do that I come up with some really great advice!  I’m a great consultant to my hypothetical self.  The problem – the hard part – is actually doing it!  Great thoughts and ideas are wonderful things to have but they really don’t mean anything if we don’t put them into action.  WISDOM IS ACTION. 

We’ve talked about how James is all about putting our FAITH INTO ACTION  - we can proclaim great faith, we can have all the “right” beliefs,” but none of those mean a thing if we don’t put them into action!  The tricky part – the difficult part – is putting those actions into practice all day, every day; wisdom is the ability to recognize the importance of acting our faith (know anyone who proclaims to do that?) in everything we say & do – even when no one is watching!  

I strongly believe that our character is demonstrated in the little things we do – the things that often go unrecognized? Do we put the cart back in the cart rack when we’re done shopping or do we leave in the middle of a parking spot for someone else to move or bump with their vehicle?  Do we pay attention to whether or not someone is behind us so that we can hold the door for that person instead of closing it in their face?  Do we make eye contact, smile, say ‘thank you’ to the clerk at the convenience store – even if, especially if? – they’re rude or crabby?  How do we talk about others when they’re not around?  How do we react when something doesn’t go our ways?  THESE ARE THE ACTIONS THAT REFLECT OUR FAITH AND OUR CHARACTER…and knowing that, knowing the importance of that, and acting on that is GODLY WISDOM. 


James 3:17 – “What of the wisdom is from above?  First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair and genuine.” 

This is a beautiful description of wisdom – a beautiful list of adjectives to describe what Wisdom in Action looks like…it’s also a list that sounds a lot like another list – the list of the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 – “The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”   

If you haven’t memorized the list, I would strongly encourage you to do so because let me suggest that another description of wisdom found here in James is that WISDOM IS THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. 

We all want to have wisdom when we are making important decisions – where should I live?  Go to school?  Work?  How do I spend my time? Handle this problem?  Let me suggest that one of your guides should be The Fruit of the Spirit. 

I recently heard a Catholic priest give his advice on making important life decisions such as taking a new job: 

First, he said to make a list of pros and cons for each.  Good idea, something I’m guessing many of us have done.  Sometimes that will make an obvious decision for us. Next, he said, picture yourself in each scenario and think about how you feel, what the experience is like – Does it reflect the Fruit of the Spirit?  This is a very helpful guide. 

I would add another important step – PRAY!  Ask God to guide you in your thoughts and feelings around the decision.  And it’s important to remember that HAPPINESS is not a fruit of the Spirit.  The decision may not be the one that initially makes you HAPPY, but if other elements of the Spirit Fruit are there, you are acting with wisdom. (For example, when I felt called to come to Montana six years ago, I did not feel happy.  I actually felt extremely sad.  I didn’t want to leave my neighbors, family, friends.  But that decision did make me feel peace and faithfulness.  And though I didn’t feel a lot of happiness for a long time, I did feel the joy of knowing that I was answering God’s call and God was working in my life!) 

So when making decision – big or small, decisions that will change your life or decision that will simply change a moment – think about how those things reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, because WISDOM IS THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. 

James 4:2-3 – “You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder.  You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight.  You don’t have because you don’t ask.  You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own craving.” 

James certainly doesn’t mince words, does he?  Now most of us don’t commit murder to get what we want – at least not in the physical sense.  But maybe, because it doesn’t seem things are going our way, we have “killed” a dream we once had.  We’ve given up on ourselves, someone else, or even God.  Now, as point number one reminds us – WISDOM IS HUMILITY -  we don’t know a whole lot!  We think we know what’s best for us when maybe what’s best for us is something completely different!  In that sense, Wisdom is also a matter of faith – trusting that God knows what is best for us and God will provide what is best for us when it’s best for us.  However, like Ralph, sometimes the answer we get is not the one we expected.  But James makes an important point – we won’t get wisdom if we don’t ask!  WISOM IS ASKING. 

James 1:5 – “But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score.” 

Now, please note that this is not a one-way process.  We ask God for wisdom and “poof!” we have instant insight and divine knowledge.  Sometimes it works that way, but usually it involves a collaboration.  We ask God for wisdom in humility, recognizing that God’s ways and thought are bigger than our own.  We ask God for wisdom in action – being intentional about living our faith in our everyday life – praying, reading the Bible, spending time with God to nurture that relationship.  We ask God for wisdom with the fruit of the spirit – asking God in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and asking God to help grow that fruit in our life.  These are ways in which God can help us grow in WISDOM FROM ABOVE.  And as James reminds us, God gives generously!  So ask!  WISDOM IS ASKING. 

               Finding wisdom is a lifelong process of faith and collaboration.  But if we remember humility, put our faith into action, let the Fruit of the Spirit be our guide, and ASK – we can find it.  And I can guarantee, if we all find and live our Godly Wisdom, the world will be a better place!  Amen. 


-Wendy Ochs