Wisdom, in its barest sense, is knowledge applied. Having an abundance of knowledge is simply being smart, but it is of no benefit if that knowledge is not used and applied. Many are considered wise, regardless of religion or culture. There is a fine line between what the Bible calls wisdom and the wisdom of the world. But God clearly says there is a difference.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NASB
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater 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 come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
If we look at life with a Christian world-view (that is seeing everything based off the truth of the Bible) then we will acknowledge that God’s truth and wisdom supersedes the world’s wisdom. Many things of the Bible the world calls foolish because they don’t understand it. Without a Christian world-view, the Bible and the Gospel just don’t make sense. The following chapter in Corinthians says that the world cannot accept the things of God because they seem foolish, nor can it understand because the things of God require God’s Spirit to understand. Before we can have true wisdom, we must first acknowledge where it comes from. If we look at anything in life and choose worldly wisdom over what the Bible says then we are denying the truth of the Bible and the wisdom of God. We must choose God’s wisdom first, always.
So what is the wisdom that comes from God? How is it different from the world’s wisdom?
James 3:17-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
God’s wisdom is pure, there is no corruption or anything sinful in it (that includes arrogance. If we think we are wise, it proves that we are not.) It is also peaceable, it is not argumentative. It is gentle, not harsh or cruel. It is reasonable, it is not swayed by emotion or prejudice. It is full of mercy and good fruit. True wisdom forgives, doesn’t hold onto wrongs and produces other godly virtues. It does not change or waver according to political correctness, social agenda, or personal endeavor. It stays true to God. True wisdom is also true in the sense that it is genuine and sincere. There is nothing two-faced or hypocritical in God’s wisdom. If our wisdom is to produce righteousness, or godliness, then it must be sown in peace and we must also be peace-makers. Our wisdom will produce nothing good or godly if it is sown in conflict, argument, arrogance, contention, or disunity. Nor will it produce anything good if we are that way by nature, even if our wisdom is given without those. We must strive for peace (which requires humility above all) and do our best not to argue people into the kingdom, or show them their need for God through arrogance or selfish conceit. God is a God of peace and order and we need to imitate that in our lives. That, above everything, will show the truth and validity of our wisdom as can be seen by this example of worldly wisdom:
James 3:14-16 NASB
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
Jealousy and selfishness are entirely contrary to God, but they are often attributes of worldly wisdom. Many who are wise are jealous of others who are also wise, and try to compete to see who is better. They also often use their wisdom for their own selfish gain. If we have any element of those in ourselves we need to humble ourselves and not think that we are high stuff, because that proves that our wisdom is worldly and not godly and makes a mockery of God to the world. Wisdom that is selfish, arrogant or jealous is clearly of the world and not of God. And with those attributes comes also chaos and sin in general.
We must strive for godly wisdom and put off the desire to be considered wise in the world. God’s wisdom is not only superior, but also far more beneficial. In a sense, one can almost see it as taking sides; will we choose to be wise with the world and gain all the accolades and perks of society that last for a day, or will we choose to be wise through God, giving up the glory we could have and instead giving it to God for the sake of impacting the world for eternity?