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“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)

I think it’s safe to assume that everyone would like to be considered smart. Parents want their children to be smart so they can be successful. Children want to be smart so they don’t get made fun of by their classmates. And none of us like to feel inferior to people we think are smarter than we are. Being smart is important to almost everyone.

Yet, as important as it is to be smart, there is something more important. The truth is, some of the most brilliant people who ever lived will not be in heaven because, in spite of all of their intelligence, they lacked Godly wisdom.

Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. Wisdom does not come from having fancy degrees or from being able to memorize numerous facts. Wisdom is more about knowing what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why to do it. Wisdom is putting knowledge into practice. For example, I can know that I need to change the tires on my car, but if I don’t know when to do it, I am not wise.

But that’s only talking about earthly knowledge and wisdom. What about Godly wisdom which is often so contrary to the way we think? James tells us that the wisdom that is from above is pure. It’s never mixed with any error. It is peaceable. It always wants to bring people together. It is considerate, understanding, willing to put others ahead of self. It is willing to yield—willing to do what others ask. It is full of mercy, always kind to others even when they wrong us. It is full of good fruits, bearing what God desires. It is impartial, never prejudiced against anyone. It is without hypocrisy. It is sincere and completely genuine.

But how often is our attitude completely the opposite of everything listed here? As we look at all of this, each of us must come to the same conclusion: I am not wise. I am a fool, and as such, I deserve hell.

So how can we gain Godly wisdom? We look to Jesus. He is the wisdom from above, and we see His wisdom on display in everything He says and does. He is pure, always speaking God’s Word in truth. He is peaceable, longing to bring people back to God. In His earthly ministry, He was considerate, helping the weak with healing and care. He was submissive, willing to obey His Father, no matter how much it cost Him. He was full of mercy, not giving the world what it deserved for sin. He was full of good fruit, doing all that the Father desired. He was impartial, reaching out even to the lowest of the low. He was sincere, genuinely loving every person He ever came across, no matter what they did to Him. More than that, He took all of our failures and foolishness and nailed them to Himself on the cross so that we might be forgiven. And through the work of the Holy Spirit, we believe that this is true, and so we are counted worthy to dwell in heaven because we have been made wise unto salvation.

In Christ, we are wise. And so we cast aside the wisdom of the world, and we rejoice in the wisdom from above that has saved us from all of our sins.

Robert Sauers is pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions.