“My church designed their own shirts. We don’t like those.” Our planning meeting, comprised of music ministers from various churches, halted abruptly. Working out details for a multi-church, city-wide, national worship event created a full agenda. Decisions about music, clothing styles had already been decided by national leadership. Our job was merely to execute the local level. Unfortunately, no one confronted this inappropriate attitude that day. This church showed up for the event in shirts utterly different from the other two thousand believers gathered to celebrate. Worse yet, their church logo eclipsed the event logo on the shirts, by a lot. By my observation, many people from that church felt embarrassed and even took the shirts off. This minister of music did not use what James 3:17 calls “heavenly wisdom.”
Heavenly wisdom is “pure,” with no hidden or private agendas. It makes decisions with the larger picture in mind. The unfortunate minister of music put greater priority on exalting his own church over unity with others.
James uses seven qualities to describe wisdom. Let me share six more tales to demonstrate the opposites of those qualities.
A church I knew needed a sanctuary and parking lot remodel to accommodate more people. The plan involved moving a particular stained glass window. Some members worked themselves into a frenzy over this, even so far as to take the matter out of the church to the city council, claiming the church and window were historical landmarks. To “keep the peace,” no remodeling occurred at that time. New visitors eventually dwindled. They found different churches who provided adequate parking and seating space.
Do not confuse capitulation with peace-making. Making peace between individuals or groups can be a messy process, seldom easy and is not characterized by one side receiving everything they desire. A different church had almost the same problem and resolved it by moving the stained glass window to a different place of honor in a reception area. It was placed lower to the ground and enjoyed far more than it had been when positioned in its original 3 story high location.
As a teacher I strived to attain our state’s education standards. Sometimes, unintentionally, I rode right over the top of struggling students. One student frequently came to class with unfinished reading assignments. I cringe now when I think of how many times I gently railed on them about it, until the day their mother called and explained that the student suffered from a reading disability. I set them up with audio textbooks and reading assignments. Simple consideration could have asked in September, “Is there some reason you aren’t able to do the reading assignments?” Goals are important but you can’t leave kindness and courtesy in the dust to achieve them.
My husband’s I.Q. is significantly higher than mine. I am astonished at how faithfully he listens to my opinions and then we work solutions together. His problem solving skills are superior to mine yet he values ME and my input. In contrast, I recall a school curriculum team I served on that made me want to chew my arm off. After a few meetings I realized that the only “right” answers for curriculum choices were those which agreed with the administrator, who chaired the meetings. Did they possess the authority to do this? Yes. Was this a productive committee? No. We were a front enabling the administrator to do exactly what they desired while telling the school board the decisions were made by a committee. I wonder if this person understands yet how much they damaged their relationship with each of us on the committee?
In the next post, I’ll talk about the last three qualities of wisdom, mercy, impartiality and sincerity. As you consider the dozens of large and small decisions you make within a day, what type of wisdom are you using? Earthly wisdom is respected in our culture but a number of its qualities are opposed to God’s kingdom. I’ve known leaders who know how to get goals accomplished and jobs done but they leave behind them a wake of frustrated, hurt and angry people. What kind of leader do you want to be?