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What does real wisdom look like?

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.

By Pastor Chris Wheatley, Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services

Light for the Way seriesBut the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown, in peace, for all peacemakers. —James 3:17-18

Over and over again, scripture tells us to know a tree by its fruit — in other words, to judge the invisible things of spirit by the tangible results and deeds that people produce. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns us of false teachers when he says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” (7:16). Later, the Apostle Paul urges the Galatians to recognize the promptings of the Spirit by its fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, mercy and self-control (5:22-23).

And now James tells us to recognize the wisdom of heaven, as opposed to the earthly wisdom which he earlier calls mere “understanding.”

Discerning knowledge is not foreign to us, is it? When you begin a new role at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), you are given instruction on how we do things, based on years or decades of experience and observation. Key measures are compared regularly, because we have learned that they predict the health of all sorts of systems. We keep policy manuals and books of knowledge.

And all these things are truly important for us to fulfill our mission. But they are not what James tells us to focus on. Because it is possible for worldly knowledge to be misused. Surely you know somebody who is so convinced that they are right about something that they cannot help but be quarrelsome and divisive about it. You have seen people so full of good information that they are arrogant, quick to correct and slow to learn. 

No. James notes that true wisdom, rather than mere understanding, is pure, peace-loving, considerate and willing to yield. That it is full of mercy and sincerity, and that it bears good fruit. So please, learn your job and do it well. Test your methods and make sure they get the job done. But no matter what you do, or how expert you become, in all things give God the glory by loving one another.
Pastor Chris WheatleyRev. Chris Wheatley serves PHS as Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor and has served in hospice, eldercare, hospital, HIV/AIDS and congregational settings. He and his wife Nicole are perpetually outnumbered by cats and Dobermans.

The Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

Find more in the Light for the Way series:

Jesus and the transformative work of aging
‘Thin places’: a reflection for All Saints Day
Get to know us: a Christian ministry
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care resources website

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