“Who is wise and understanding among you? By their good conduct let him (or her) show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18 ESV)
For me, the most important character traits in any person are faith in God and the character traits that should always accompany that faith: integrity, humility, and unconditional love. When it comes to a leader, however, I add another essential trait – wisdom.
Wisdom is the ability to exercise sound judgment and make good decisions. We all make decisions, but leaders must make decisions that impact both their lives and the lives of others. Their good decisions can bless many, but the repercussions of their bad judgment can be incredibly destructive.
James, the apostolic half-brother of Jesus, gives us two valuable instructions on wisdom. First, he tells us that if we need wisdom, we should ask God, who will generously provide it. (James 1:5)
This instruction reminds us that the only true wisdom is the godly wisdom that comes from above. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because our reverence for God rightly persuades us God is wisdom’s source. (Proverbs 2:6, 9:10) God gave it to Joseph as he rose to power in Egypt, to Joshua as he rose to be Moses’ successor, to King Solomon when he asked for it so he could rule justly, and to Daniel in Babylonian exile. (Genesis 41:38; Deuteronomy 34:9; 1 Kings 3:5-12, 28; Daniel 1:17)
The ultimate example of godly wisdom is, of course, Jesus Christ, who personified wisdom and demonstrated it in both his youth and his ministry on earth. (1 Corinthians 1:30; Luke 2:40-52; Mark 6:2)
Our second instruction from James 3 tells us how we can recognize true wisdom and distinguish it from its false worldly counterpart. Scripture warns us strongly and repeatedly that this false wisdom is not wisdom at all. It is worldly cunning and craftiness patterned after the serpent’s deception of Eve that mesmerizes and manipulates people to go along with its personal agenda. (2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 3:19)
I have researched the original Greek vocabulary for this James 3 passage and studied multiple English translations so I can offer a fuller explanation of what the passage reveals:
Who among you considers themself to be wise and knowledgeable? Demonstrate this wisdom by the moral excellence and even-tempered humility of your life. But if your heart is filled with a self-centered desire for personal success and a zealous hostility toward those who challenge or compete against you, then do not boast that you have wisdom because that would be a lie. What you have is not godly wisdom. It is worldly, unspiritual, and like the devil if not of the devil. It will inevitably lead to disorder, confusion, instability, and even open defiance of lawful authority; and it will result in all types of mean and evil behavior.
Godly wisdom, on the other hand, is first and foremost innocent and without moral blemish. It demonstrates and promotes a sense of well-being, not anxiety or turmoil. It is gracious and kind, not quarrelsome, and is open to reason and willing to listen. It is filled with mercy and compassion for others and demonstrates this through good deeds that glorify God and not self. (John 15:5-8) It is fair to everyone, and it is sincere – totally free from “glad-hander” hypocrisy. Godly wisdom cultivates righteousness in harmonious ways because the bearer of godly wisdom is a peacemaker. (Matthew 5:9)
My friends, we must have godly wisdom to break through these evil days. (Ephesians 5:15-17). Do not judge a leader by what they say, as they seek to scratch our itching ears, but by how they live and how they treat others. (2 Timothy 4:3; Luke 6:43-45; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) For leaders and those who get to choose their leaders, godly wisdom comes from knowing God’s will through both prayer and a rich understanding of God’s Word. (Colossians 1:9, 3:16)
Moses was trained in all the wisdom of Egypt, but he did not obtain a heart of true wisdom, or accomplish any good, until he chose to learn and follow the ways of the Lord. (Acts 7:22; Psalm 90:12; Exodus 33:13)
In every leadership situation, large or small, choose godly wisdom over worldly cunning.
God bless you, and God bless our community.