I work daily with people who face difficult decisions about how to cope with family conflicts, depression and anxiety, eating concerns, and career obstacles. When we look for God’s guidance, we may ask, “How do I know if a decision or plan represents God’s wisdom?” James offers insight that serves as our filter for spiritual wisdom. It is God’s wisdom when it meets a few key criteria: It is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, and without partiality or hypocrisy.
There are daily messages in our world that communicate and encourage entitlement, unyielding agendas, hypocrisy, and judgment of those who do not meet the standard set by influential people and systems. This kind of spiritual foolishness is so powerful and present that at times we mistake it for spiritual wisdom. For instance, our culture tells us that we will be fulfilled by restricting food in unhealthy ways, attaining wealth through dishonest practices, compromising our values, or using excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs to numb ourselves. But these strategies leave us feeling worse. The outcome is often self-judgment, regret, and emptiness rather than good fruit.
If you feel God is leading you to enact a harsh, unyielding judgment toward yourself or others, step back and reassess. Remember the filter for spiritual wisdom that James offers. When you feel drawn to thinking that excludes others, remember the love and radical inclusion that Jesus extends. Relationships suffer, churches split, and businesses fail when two opposing perspectives lack a willingness to yield, do not allow room for substantial mercy, and lack the good fruit of love.
When you recognize yourself turning toward harsh words, rigidity, or efforts to be fulfilled apart from God, return to the peaceable and pure spiritual wisdom from God.
God, help us to see clearly so we can discern your wisdom from among the many messages that surround us. Help us to seek, recognize, and embrace spiritual wisdom. Amen.
Proverbs describes the noble wife and sets a standard that can seem impossible. This woman is capable and respected but also generous and wise. She serves but is not weak. Is she a “superwoman,” and do all women need to be “superwomen”? No, she is noble because she follows the counsel of the psalmist and is deeply rooted in the teachings of God. Therefore, she represents a standard for everyone to emulate, not just women. James, another teacher of wisdom, encourages believers to show these same characteristics by following the wisdom given by God. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples display a lack of wisdom by arguing over who is the greatest. Jesus reminds them that greatness in God’s eyes comes through service, not through seeking recognition.
Read Proverbs 31:10-31. How have societal expectations shaped your life? How do you allow them to shape the ways you interact with others?
Read Psalm 1. What fruit are you yielding in this season?
Read James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a. In what ways does your life reflect “gentleness born of wisdom”? How are you gentle with yourself and with others?
Read Mark 9:30-37. How do you seek to serve others in your daily life?
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