James: Day 8

Wisdom from Above

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Today's Text: James 3:13-18, Proverbs 11:18, Romans 12:9-21, Galatians 5:22-23, Hebrews 12:11

Scripture Reading: James 3:13-18, Proverbs 11:18, Romans 12:9-21, Galatians 5:22-23, Hebrews 12:11

You could fill an entire library with all the bad dating advice heard around the world. As early as elementary school, girls are told to change their style or personality to woo a crush. In high school, magazines tell girls to pretend to laugh at his jokes or play hard to get. Even in our twenties, thirties, and beyond, the barrage of bad dating advice from media, friends, and professionals is inescapable. Advice rooted in jealousy, insecurity, and selfishness has engulfed our culture.

We’ve all sought advice from the world, whether on dating or some other aspect of life. We all face experiences that challenge and confuse us—they’re often the moments that grow us the most. As James says from the very beginning of his book, the trials of life produce maturity (1:2-4). But where we choose to turn with our questions when we’ve lost our way can dramatically change the course of our journey.

As a counselor, people often turn to me for advice and wisdom while in the throes of crisis. And the truth is, I don’t have all the answers or the perfect advice for every person. Thankfully, my work is more about supporting people along their journey, rather than telling them which steps to take. The desire for clarity isn’t wrong, but there is only one all-knowing and perfect Counselor—and it sure isn’t me.  

We need to be careful whom we trust to speak into our lives. Hear me on this: it is immeasurably valuable to open your life up to guidance from your trusted church community. But we need to remember that all of us are broken vessels, imperfectly reflecting the image of God. The Lord speaks through people (Matthew 10:20), but we must weigh the words of others with the help of the Holy Spirit to discern what God Himself is saying.

James does not take the matter of bad advice lightly, going as far as to call it demonic (James 3:15). Why is it such a big deal? Because bad advice can wound people and even destroy lives. There is a sharp distinction between wisdom from above, and wisdom from below. Knowing how serious the consequences can be, we need to be careful with both the counsel we take and the counsel we give.

Thankfully, James describes what godly “wisdom from above” looks like. Wisdom from God is “pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without pretense” (3:17).

Interestingly, those descriptions don’t sound anything like the most “influential” voices in our culture. But is there anyone that does come to mind when you read James’s description of wisdom? Those are the people we ought to turn to for advice, the people we should hope to grow more like over time.

Of course, the life of Christ is the ultimate example of godly wisdom in action. If anyone knows what it is like to face trials, it’s Jesus before the cross. And ultimately who does He seek for comfort and wisdom but His Father? (Luke 22:39-43). This is God’s best for us too.

In times of crisis and pain, when we’re looking for direction, may our hearts learn to hear the instruction of the Holy Spirit. May we seek first the wisdom of our Heavenly Father. Even now, He longs to be gracious to us, to generously give us wisdom when we ask Him for it (Isaiah 30:18; James 1:5). We’ll know it’s from Him because true wisdom from above carries with it the sweet aroma of gentleness and peace.

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Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

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  • Good feelings (e.g. peace) and the right answer don’t always come in the same envelope.

  • Since the day she was born, all 1 lb, 12 oz of her has been on a road of both medical miracles and questions without answers. In her nearly 14 years with us, she’s had more surgeries than I can count. But we seem to end up in this same hard spot, with tough choices. And less than desirable to a teenage girl.

    I’ve cried out to God so much over these years. Remembering that she’s already perfectly created can be difficult, especially when this one issue is the difference between breathing well and not so well. Staring and not staring. Restrictions and no restrictions.

    The writing today that accompanied the Scriptures touched my heart profoundly as we find ourselves in the middle of the medical again. Working a teenager through this hard road versus walking a tween or younger.

  • Heidi Mnkandhla

    Thank you for this devotion! I am enjoying reading through James and your commentary on it!

  • Genesis Maas

    This spoke so much richness in my life today. Thank you She Reads Truth Community!

  • I love love love this. So needed. Thank you!

  • Allison Joy

    It’s interesting/ironic/funny (take your pick) to me that you use love/dating as your first example. I am in my mid 30’s, and I have never taken any dating advice… because I’ve never been on a date. Ha! I’ve had plenty of people tell me that I need to put myself out there. But… that’s not me. Sure, I’d love to have a family one day. I LOVE kids, and I certainly never imagined being single and living with my parents in my mid 30s. (Clarification, in case anyone is wondering… I work, contribute, we help each other out, my older brother is with us too, and it works for us.) I have felt no need or desire to “put myself out there.” God knows me, and I’ve joked that He knows that, at this point, if I’m to get into any sort of relationship, He is going to have to, quite literally, plop that guy right in front of me. And He’s perfectly capable of doing that, if it’s His will. So I’ve not followed the advice of others, and I’m okay with that. I’m also thankful to have supportive friends, church members, and family who have not pushed me in any way.

    I also like to joke with those I know who are younger than me… I jokingly tell them “You know my rule, don’t you? No getting engaged or married until I’ve at LEAST had a date.” They don’t listen. ;)

    I guess my main point is… don’t worry about advice you get if it doesn’t seem to work for you, for whatever reason. Of course, listen to Godly wisdom, but Godly wisdom will also feel right , even if it’s hard. And for me, the “right” advice has been do be content, wait on God, and not feel pushed.

    • Ana

      You’ve been blessed in a way that the world doesn’t understand. You don’t conform to the check list of social expectations. And sometimes when people give us advice, they are actually trying to conform us to that list. But what is wisdom to the world is foolishness to God, and what the world often doesn’t understand and/or values is valued by the Lord. I’m a psychologist and I often see so many people destroying the good things, the blessings they have received, because they want to conform. They marry, they have “great” jobs, a good house, they travel a lot, and yet… they are profoundly unhappy, empty… It often reminds me of a story of the Old Testament (I don’t recall from where, could it be from Samuel?), where a military leader has leprosy and no one can cure him, even with the most elaborate and expensive treatments, until someone talks about a man of God who might cure him. This profet tells him to go and wash in the waters of the river and the military leader is very angry because… water?! Really? There’s nothing amazing in water. So he doesn’t trust… because the world wisdom (present in his thoughts) disdains such an humble cure. When I point out the small things in the lives of the people I counsel that are indeed great blessings, they look at me with a look of disbelief, surprised (sometimes I think they must be thinking “Have I come to the right place?” or “She is the one who needs help!” :)).
      I once knew a woman who had all the things the worl expected from her, but she was so unhappy and empty, that in her fifties she left everything and lived in a small room that she rented and she told me she had never been so happy and never had such peace like in that time of her life.
      Sorry, I digressed a little :)
      Thank you for sharing. God bless you!

      • Allison Joy

        Thank you for your kind words. I definitely try to find the “small” blessings (that really aren’t so small!) and I find other ways to satisfy my desire to be a mom. I work with the kids at church, and call them “my” kids. I love snuggling kids in the nursery, and even has one that almost always falls asleep in my arms. I’m also fortunate to have a pastor who truly understands the value of singleness. Too often, advice in the church to older singles is something akin to “Hey! You have more time to help the church, because you don’t have family responsibilities. Give those moms and dads a break!” (Slight exaggeration, perhaps.) I will never forget a few years ago when my pastor actually gave an entire sermon on why it’s okay to be single. And I appreciated it so much. I told him after, and his words to me were, “I was watching you sing during third service, and I thought ‘You know, some people just need to be blessed today, and sometimes us married folks need to just shut up.'” Ha! (STILL makes me smile!) He also has what I would call a gift of making “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” sermons fit, but not feel like themed sermons, if that makes sense… Like if you didn’t know it was his Mother’s Day sermon, you’d never guess it. But if you told after, you’d see how it was connected. I’ll be sad to see him retire in a year, but we have an awesome youth minister who’d taking up the reigns.

  • Diane Huntsman

    Jealousy is such a destructive sin.. I know all sin is destructive, but those private sins lie in hiding and do such grave damage as we privately sin our hearts out.. recently my pastor said that jealousy was at the core of the crucifixion of our Lord.. the religious zealots of the day did not like the attention Jesus was getting.. it was taking the attention off of them.. I struggle with jealousy.. I play the compare game all too often.. jealousy is gross.. it’s debilitating.. we need to confess our sins one to another and pray for each other that we might be healed.. pray for me I request.. I do not want to be jealous I want to be content and celebrate the blessings and successes of others.. as do you sweet sister.. I know I’m not the only one who battles jealousy.. so I’m praying for you too.. hugs

  • Thank you needed this

  • Romans 12:15 and 18 were really powerful to me today. If I’m getting my wisdom from God, that also means that I’m tuned into the communities around me and mourning when they are and being joyful when they are. It’s interesting, I think so much of what James is telling us in this book is that we cannot should not absolutely better not look to the world for our joy/love/comfort/wisdom, but to God. However, in looking to God, we are automatically drawn towards the world/our communities. To save ourselves, we have to lead others to Christ, and we can’t do that if we’re completely cut off from the world. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what being “in the world, but not of it” means, and it seems like it means being aware of struggles and evils, but not succumbing to them, knowing our faith comes from God and not from everything in the world.

    • Emily B.

      I really like your point about being drawn to community after being close to God. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ladies, I’m struggling to have peace and understanding. Last night, my sister and I were rear-ended. The lady just backed into us; she says she didn’t see us. The front bumper of our car is badly dented and may be more than the value of the car to fix. It’s super stressful for me because my family needs this car and we don’t have finances to just buy another one. I feel so responsible for being the one that was driving and am replaying it all in my head, wishing I could change just one thing so it wouldn’t have happened. Really trying to trust that there is some good to come out of it and I know that God will provide in all things.

    • Mari

      I’m praying for you Leesha. I’ve been in similar situations myself. Please keep in mind the most important thing here is that you and your sister are safe. A car can be replaced but you and your sister cannot. Also praying that the other ladies insurance will take care of all the damages to your car.

  • “We’ll know it’s from him because true wisdom from above carries with it the sweet aroma of gentleness and peace.” Love this! It is so important. Ask for guidance. He will always give it and allow your course of action to always be rooted in love. And praise God he doesn’t expect us to be perfect. May we all be patient and understanding students as we continue to work on our relationship with Him. Happy Memorial Day!

  • churchmouse

    To all of the She’s who are in any way connected to our military – on this Memorial Day ( here in the USA) , thank you all for your service, whether on the battlefield or back home. Prayers of gratitude, strength and protection being said for you all especially today.

  • Several years ago I gave very bad advice. It was bourn out of selfish ambition and pride. You see, I didn’t “approve” of the woman my brother chose to marry… so when he came to me ” seeking advice”. .. or approval to leave her. I was there to give it… and the kicker? I was memorizing the book of James at the time. I think I even quoted James 1:5. Oh my word. What a mess I created. I hurt people and my relationship with my brother was badly damaged.
    Even though I was telling him what he wanted to hear.
    They split. Then reunited. I was not happy. And I was on the outside. Satan was succeeding in destroying this relationship. I was prideful and went a long time without caring whether or not I even saw him again.
    I knew that I was wrong. I knew I needed to make amends. I prayed about the right timing and Satan was hard at work pulling me back. Then I read Numbers 12. Well if that’s not confirmation. Wow. I never noticed that first verse before… Miriam was stricken with leprosy for not “approving” of Moses wife. Whoa.
    I have made my amends to both my brother and my sister in law. While my relationship with him is great. The other is truly guarded which I understand . But she did forgive me.
    When I look back at that time I see how prideful I was. And how God humbled me. He has given me fresh eyes , a clean heart and a renewed spirit. He is revealing to me the areas I need to work on… I hear Him loud and clear…and may I never forget the consequences of going rogue. Praise God for His redeeming Love.

    • Sadie

      Thanks for sharing this – your transparency is refreshing and so glorifying to the God who gave you this grace.

    • She Reads Truth

      Thank you for sharing this, Leslie. Such a powerful story. So grateful to have you in the SRT community!

      – Stormye

    • Diane Huntsman

      Such a powerful story!! I can relate and I thank you for sharing!!

  • The wisdom I receive comes from my mom and my grandmother ❤️ and it’s a wisdom that is truly guided by God. I only pray that I learn from them and allow the Holy Spirit to guide my tongue whenever I speak to others. This devotional definitely spoke to me. Amen

  • churchmouse

    “Where we choose to turn with our questions when we’ve lost our way can dramatically change the course of our journey.” Oh to be wise enough to seek the counsel of God BEFORE we’ve lost our way. Lord, let me be proactive by reading and studying your Word so that when decisions need to be made, I’m in tune with Your Spirit, Your will and Your ways. Bring faithful fellow pilgrims alongside for encouragement and their own wisdom grounded in You. When others seek my advice, let me be slow to speak until I have heard from You. Amen.

    • Katalina

      Amen Churchmouse! Wonderful prayer!

    • Grateful52

      Amen.. I need to read this passage daily until I see a difference in the ways in which I think when confronted with conflict. Please pray for me to be slow to think and then speak.

  • The book of James and Romans are two of my favorites. I can always come to them and find something that my heart needs. Wisdom is something I seek daily. Wanting to say the right thing sometimes keeps me from saying anything at all. Knowing how important our words are to others the reminder we should speak through the Spirit is a good reminder to me.

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