For the past several months, the prayer phone line at our ministry has been overwhelmingly focused on two requests: health and wisdom. Many have sought prayer regarding wisdom about business dealings, health choices, raising children, caring for elderly parents, and a myriad of situations. Of all the things anyone could ask of God, wisdom is the most valuable. Proverbs 4:7 tells us wisdom is the principal [the first or beginning] thing therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Defining Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding
The Bible tells us that the first step to acquiring wisdom is to fear (reverence) the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. In the oldest book of the Bible, Job wrote And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)
I am big on defining terms because it’s easy to confuse words. For example, many people use the word grace when they mean mercy. In the same way, many substitute knowledge for wisdom.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language defines wisdom as the right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable [praiseworthy] ends and the best way to accomplish them.
Knowledge is information. It is a clear and certain perception of that which exists of truth and fact. Understanding means comprehension.
Two Kinds of “Wisdom”
James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, gave us a clear definition of godly wisdom. In James 3:17, he wrote: the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Godly wisdom comes from God! It doesn't come from college professors or a university. Wisdom doesn't come from scientists or the government.
However, the world offers – and almost pushes – its own version of wisdom. James gave us a picture of the world’s wisdom so we could contrast it with God’s. He wrote, if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:14-16)
Envy is Evidence of the World’s Way
Envy is not of God, and it is the first indicator that you are headed the world’s way instead of God’s. Envy is like jealousy, but it is worse because it can have dire consequences. Envy not only wants what someone else has, as jealousy does, but it also wishes harm, evil, or ill-will upon others because they have something you want.
God’s way is the wise way; God’s way is the wisdom way. God’s wisdom will always tell you the right thing to do, and it is always grounded in love. God’s way is peaceable; it is impartial; it doesn’t judge a person based on the color of their skin.
Today, the world's most popular message seems to be that we can assess people by their skin color, but you can't classify any group of people as anything. Everyone is an individual, and each one will have to answer for their behavior. Envy incites hatred and violence. It is not God's way.
God's wisdom will open doors of opportunity for those who trust Him. If people or situations are standing in your way, God's favor will move them if you pursue God's wisdom and not the world's.