Today’s Reading: James 1
In May 2012, a thirty-two-carat Burmese ruby-and-diamond ring—from the collection of Lily Safra, one of the richest women in the world—was sold at auction. The pre-auction estimate for the ring was $3 to $5 million, but the final sale price ended at $6.7 million. It is believed to be the most expensive ruby ever sold. As valuable as rubies are, the Bible tells us there is something more valuable than that: wisdom. As Proverbs 8:11 says, “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (KJV).
In today’s chapter, James begins by telling us how to find this invaluable and rare jewel called wisdom. First we need to understand that wisdom is not simply information. I know a lot of intelligent people who are not wise. Being old is no guarantee of wisdom. And neither education nor experience alone make someone wise, although wisdom does include experience and education. And wisdom is not knowledge either. As former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. As Doug Larson said, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk.”
Each year in the United States 800,000 new books and 400,000 periodicals are published. As Brian Buffini rightly said, “We are drowning in information and starving for wisdom.”
So what is wisdom and how do we get it?
Charles Spurgeon best defined it when he gave the difference between wisdom and knowledge: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. But to know how to use knowledge rightly is to have wisdom.”
R. T. Kendall, who has been a spiritual father and mentor to me, also offers definitions of wisdom:
• Wisdom is saying or doing the right thing—at the right time!
• Wisdom focuses on knowing the next step forward in making decisions.
• Wisdom is to possess the ability to get things done.
• Wisdom [is] knowing what to do next.
• Wisdom is getting God’s opinion.
Kendall explains, “God always has an opinion on any matter. He therefore should be consulted first when we are wanting to know the next step forward.” God always knows the next step but is rarely asked. I have good news. Wisdom is not far away. And James 1:5 tells us where wisdom can be found. James says if you want wisdom, it’s found in prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I think counseling has gone up in the church because prayer has gone down. We get counseling to gain wisdom when we could have started with God instead of an office. I think prayerlessness is an insult to God. Every prayerless day is a statement by a helpless individual that says, I do not need God today.
Baptist preacher Vance Havner said, “If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees.” Wisdom is available to those who ask God in prayer for it. That means wisdom and prayer go together. You can’t have one without the other. No one who is wise is prayerless. And no one who is prayerless will ever be wise.
We will never attain wisdom apart from the presence of God. Colossians 2:3 says, “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (NLT). So He is our source and the source of wisdom. That means we can have an MBA or a PHD and still be D-U-M-B. Because if God is divorced from our lives, then we are divorced from the all-wise God. Every man of wisdom is a man of prayer. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder . . . and in this case, the wise pray and the prayerful are wise.
Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise” (NLT). So those who walk with God will have to be wise. Why? There is no one wiser than God. Walk with God. Talk with God. Listen to God. And watch how He rubs off on you.
I lived in Detroit for thirty years. I lived down the street from the first auto factory in the United States. There is a really cool story about that plant.
Henry Ford asked Charlie Steinmetz, an electrical genius, to build the generators for his automobile factory. One day the generators stopped working, and the repairmen couldn’t figure out the problem. Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then hit the switch. Immediately the generators came to life. When Ford got the bill from Steinmetz, he was stunned. The amount was $10,000. When he asked why the bill was so high, Steinmetz replied: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill. wisdom knows the exact spot to make things work. God is like Charlie Steinmetz, He knows how to make life work.