Does not use appropriate language. Wears inappropriate clothing. 3. Hair is messy. 4. Does not respect older members. 5. Laughs too much.
This list is only part of a longer one (15 criticisms in all) presented to my husband one day by some “concerned,” church folk, early in his ministry. I know we both exhibited some rough edges, as most young people do, but this approach showed a true lack of grace. These vague, yet very personal criticisms, crushed my husband’s spirit. Without any specifics, he simply felt as if these fellow believers scrutinized him, mercilessly, then made a list of his faults.
The 4th trait of heavenly wisdom, James explains in chapter three, verse 18, is that it is full of mercy. Mature believers confront others about their failings with kindness. Our goal is to help each other gain self-awareness and an understanding of how our behavior and attitudes affect the greater body. Fault-finding and nit-picking simply don’t fit into a mercy paradigm
Impartiality is the 5th trait James lists for heavenly wisdom. Too many times words from a student carried so much weight at home. I was tried and condemned before parents ever initiated a conversation with me. Hearing only one side of a situation, they determined my guilt as a certainty. To be sure, if I actually did and said some of the crazy things students claimed I did, a firing squad would be appropriate.
I can also remember a time when some church folk simply invented stories about my husband and I that received a fair amount of traction in our community. For the better part of a year, when we went to restaurants, school functions and community events, we observed people pointing at and whispering about us, when they thought we didn’t notice. We did.
Wise believers guard carefully against judging a situation without hearing from both sides. This is part of why the Bible warns us not to listen to negative reports, those times when someone tries to speak to you about a situation in which you do not have authority or influence and usually no opportunity to hear the other side of the story. In Numbers 14, the destiny of an entire nation became altered due to evil reports. Ten spies and their fearful story of what lurked in the promised land, overcame Joshua and Caleb who both said, “Hey, we can do this!” Their positive perspectives were lost in the fear mongering that overcame the Israelites.
Heavenly wisdom doesn’t respond to any conflict by simply acting on information from the person they know best in the situation. Words are so incredibly powerful. I remember times people lied about me outright and yet others believed them simply because they knew the tale bearer better than they knew me.
Sincerity concludes Jame’s list of descriptives concerning heavenly wisdom. A pastor friend of mine recounts his experience at his church concerning insincerity. A particular couple generously showered he and his family with homemade baked goods for every holiday. Each time they’d drop off a plate off goodies they’d gush things like, “Well, we just love all our pastors and support all of you.” When he discovered, a couple years into his ministry, that they were part of a group secretly trying to run him off and replace him with an associate, those plates of cookies started getting dumped in the trash. See, the couple wasn’t entirely sure who would come out on top in the struggle and wanted to make sure all their bases were covered with whomever was left standing.
A sad and somewhat extreme case, it still challenges us to consider what we say and how we say it to people we believe might be of benefit to us in some way. Are we buttering some folks up because it might advance our cause? That is a lack of sincerity and is unwise. Being false in one area can bleed over into other regions of our life, like our relationship with our Father. Jesus’ most stern words were for insincere Pharisees, who pretended to be lovers of God when truthfully they loved themselves a whole lot more.
The next time you ask God for wisdom in a matter, be specific. Ask him to enable you to be pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial and sincere. If you are filled with these godly qualities, you will possess the mind of Christ and know what to do in any given situation.