Wisdom is important in our lives. We make important decisions during our life and we need wisdom to know what is the best for us. We need wisdom to be able to assess our situations with clear and deeper understanding. When we relate to people, we need wisdom. When we take care of our family, we need wisdom. To live a good life, we need wisdom.
Wisdom that I am talking about is different from academic knowledge. It is not something that you can learn from school. It is not about how much you know or how much education you have received. It is not just book knowledge.
Wisdom that I am talking about is not just being street smart either. Some people may not have much education but they know how to read their environments and how to deal with people and situations. They are socially smart and know what to do. I am not talking about that.
Wisdom that I am talking about is the wisdom that makes us happy and makes others happy. Last week, I said being happy is our ethical responsibility because if we are not happy, we make others unhappy. Wisdom that I am talking about is the wisdom that makes US happy and OTHERS happy. I will call it spiritual wisdom or life wisdom.
That is the kind of wisdom we all need to pursue. This kind of wisdom is WISDOM FROM ABOVE, James said in today’s Scripture passage. The WISDOM FROM ABOVE! – What did he mean by that? He meant it was the wisdom that comes from God. It is a gift of God. It is not something we can acquire with our own effort. It doesn’t necessarily come from our experiences. It is not about our intelligence. It is a gift of God. It is a gift of God to those who need it and who desire it.
This kind of wisdom may not make you successful but it will make you happy and others happy. I don’t know about you but I will choose any time the wisdom that makes me and others happy over the wisdom that makes me successful.
Culprit of Happiness
So, the wisdom from above is the wisdom that makes life happy. Why people cannot have this kind of wisdom? Why?
SELFISHNESS – Yes, that is the main culprit. I can never be happy when I am selfish. When I am selfish, I become unhappy. I don’t know why but that is the truth. Happiness is never JUST ABOUT MYSELF. I am happy when you are happy. Happiness is communal. Happy people make happiness and unhappy people make unhappiness. We are happy along with other people. Selfishness is pursuing only your own happiness and doesn’t care about others. That’s why through selfishness, we can never achieve happiness in a real sense.
James was right when he said,
But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. (James 3:14-15)
So, with the selfish ambition, we cannot have the wisdom from above. Selfishness brings disorder, chaos, struggle and fight.
For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. (James 3:16)
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? (James 4:1)
When there is no spiritual wisdom, there will be only conflicts and disputes. That was what happened at the church James was ministering to. The same thing happened at the church in Corinth.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
Of course, conflicts are unavoidable. As we live our lives, we always experience conflicts. At home. At work. At church. Trying to avoid conflict at all costs is not healthy. We don’t need to be scared of conflicts.
But when we have spiritual wisdom, we will find a way where our conflicts turn into reconciliation, peace and harmony.
Spiritual people have conflicts too. Paul and Barnabas were coworkers but they had a big fight.
Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. (Acts 15:37-39)
But their conflicts had nothing to do with their selfish ambition. They had the spiritual wisdom and ultimately, they came to reconciliation and Paul worked with Mark.
The wisdom from above comes from purity. Purity is the absence of selfish ambition.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)
It is hard to know our own selfish ambition. It is well hidden. We cover it up well too. So, we don’t even know that we have it. Once in a while when we see ugly results, we catch our own selfish ambition. We all need to cultivate purity. That is our spiritual discipline. Jesus told us if you want to follow me, deny yourself and follow me. Denying yourself is letting go of selfish ambition. Letting go of selfish ambition is the very basic spiritual discipline. That is to cultivate purity.
How can we serve others, letting go of our selfish ambition. That is the question we have to ask ourselves every day. Then slowly we become pure and from the purity, true happiness comes.
From our desire to serve others, true wisdom will come. The most profound wisdom comes from love.
We reflected on the discipline of tongue last week. Now one week passed. How was it? Have you failed? I did. But we will not give up. We will continue. It does not depend on us alone. God will show us mercy and help us.
In the same way, the discipline of having a pure heart will be more difficult. Sometimes we will catch ourselves acting out of selfishness. That’s all right. Let us not be disappointed and give up. We will continuously work. That is the attitude of spiritual people who have spiritual wisdom.
This was what St. Paul said.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Once we have the wisdom from above, our relationship with others will change. The war that exists within us will not be there anymore. We will have peace with ourselves. We will experience calmness, gentleness, and we will be full of mercy. No more partiality or hypocrisy. We will truly find who we are.
This makes us happy and makes others happy. To those who want to serve others, God gives the spiritual wisdom. It is a blessing to have these people around us because they will make those around them happy. Let us be a blessing not only to ourselves but also to others.