What Does a Wise Person Look Like?
By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer
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 3:15ff (NIV)
19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
-1 Corinthians 1:19ff (NIV)
The scriptures are replete with words of wisdom and talking about wisdom. However, I just want to focus on these two passages. First lets us get a definition of wisdom.
What does wisdom look like in action?
- having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement.
- (wise to) informal aware of, especially so as to know how to act.
■ verb (wise up) informal become alert or aware.
When we think of a wise man what is the first image that comes to your mind? For most people it is an image of some old monk with a long white beard sitting in a lotus position giving out words of wisdom that will change people’s lives. This image is WRONG.
We must remember that there are really two kinds of wisdom that the Bible speaks about. The first is “Worldly Wisdom” (i.e. wisdom not given by God) and the second is “Godly Wisdom.”
We do have to recognize that worldly wisdom is of some value. Time and experience is a teacher. However, we must recognize that worldly wisdom is often wrong. Why? Because God has set into motion principles in His word that run contrary to worldly wisdom. The New Bible Dictionary says, “Worldly wisdom is based on intuition and experience without revelation, and thus has severe limitations.” Proverbs 14:12(NIV84) puts it this way; “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
What is Godly Wisdom? James gives us a definition of “Godly Wisdom” in James3:17 (NIV84) “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.”
James gives us some characteristics of what wisdom in action looks like. He says it is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, has good fruit, impartial and sincere. Notice that all of the actions listed are not aggressive. But they show love and mercy.
Warren Wiersbe puts wisdom like this.
The wise person uses gentleness and persuasion with patience; he or she does not threaten or accuse. “Easy to be intreated” (v. 17) suggests a willingness to yield, or to be reasonable. Wise people are full of mercy, not quick to judge or condemn; their lives are full of good fruits. There is no wavering (“partiality,” 1:6 and 2:4); though they are willing to yield, they are not willing to compromise with the truth. Finally, true wisdom will not allow for hypocrisy; the truth is spoken and is backed with a true motive.
With this in mind we must remember how we respond to situations and circumstances is up to us. Will we respond out of God’s wisdom or out of worldly wisdom? When you are about to respond to a situation do you do it with the characteristics that James shows us here?
When responding to any situation or circumstance we know that we can seek God and He will give us wisdom. How does He do this? He does this through the Bible. If we don’t study the scripture, bathed in prayer, how in the world do we think we will respond properly? How about you today? Are you purposefully seeking God about situations and circumstances or are you trying to handle problems in your own strength. The choice is yours.
 Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Hubbard, D. A. (1996). Wisdom. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (1244). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (729). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.