#073: Man’s Wisdom or God’s Wisdom–Which do You Choose?

As I survey what is going on around the world, I admit to a lot of head scratching lately. Prominent world leaders are doing and saying things that make me wonder, “Really, what were you thinking?”


My head scratching continues as I peruse the business news. Here are a few highlights from the last couple years:

  • The Hostess CEO ordered an 8% pay cut for everyone in the company but continued to collect his $125,000 a MONTH salary while the company was going through bankruptcy proceedings.
  • The CEO of Yahoo lied on his resume, claiming a degree he didn’t have. CEO gone.
  • The married CEO of Best Buy had an affair with a young subordinate. CEO gone.
  • The CEO of JC Penny eliminated all consumer promotions and attempted to reposition the brand as upscale, all at the same time. Sales dropped precipitously—almost as much as the stock price dropped. CEO gone.

It would seem that common sense isn’t so common, and wisdom is in short supply in both political offices and executive suites. Supposedly these leaders are among the best and brightest so you understand why I keep scratching my head and wonder “What were you thinking!?” Maybe you do too!

There are two kinds of wisdom: man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. Reviewing these examples of leadership it’s pretty easy to declare them as failures of man’s wisdom. As Christian leaders seeking to be the best leaders we can be, we should seek God’s wisdom and His best. There is a passage in James that paints a picture of the difference between man’s wisdom and God’s.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:13-18 NRSV)

 Man’s Wisdom

  • Bitter envy. Man’s wisdom is often displayed in bitterness and envy of other people’s success.
  • Selfish ambition. Man’s wisdom is seen in people whose ambition is to promote themselves at all costs.
  • Boastful. Man’s wisdom is obvious in prideful people who love to boast about their accomplishments.
  • Untruthful. Man’s wisdom often includes deceit and untruthfulness, especially when boasting is involved!

Man’s wisdom, says James, does not come from God, but is earthly, unspiritual, and evil. It results in disorder and all kinds of wickedness. Man’s wisdom tends to lead to sin.

 God’s Wisdom

  • Pure. God’s wisdom is displayed when we are spiritually pure, holy.
  • Peaceable. God’s wisdom is displayed when we have peace that flows from holiness.
  • Gentle. God’s wisdom is displayed when we are gentle and reasonable.
  • Willing to yield. God’s wisdom is displayed when we are fair-minded and willing to compromise where God leads.
  • Full of mercy. God’s wisdom is displayed when we are merciful.
  • Full of good fruits. God’s wisdom is displayed when the actions of our lives align with our beliefs.
  • Impartial. God’s wisdom is displayed when we hold to God’s standards impartially.
  • Sincere. God’s standards are displayed when we are sincere, open, and honest, not hypocritical.

God’s wisdom, says James, is sown in peace and leads to a harvest of righteousness.

Man’s wisdom is on display when motives are impure, when decisions lead to rivalry and war, when truth is compromised in the name of peace, when stubbornness closes the mind, when we talk about mercy but don’t show it in our actions, when beliefs do not match our actions, when we are indecisive—yielding to pressure rather than holding to God’s standards, and when we are insincere and hypocritical.

None of us is perfect. We all struggle every day in the battle between man’s wisdom and God’s. But God has promised us His wisdom if we will just turn to Him and ask for wisdom in faith:

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7 NRSV)

The question is, “Are you trying to obtain God’s wisdom in your daily life, or are you settling for man’s wisdom?”

 Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How are you doing in your quest for wisdom? Which of the characteristics of man’s wisdom do you see most often in others? In yourself?

Category: Personal Development | Character

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thanks, Ron, another profound observation on where we should turn for wisdom. I remember that whole JCPenny debacle. Wasn’t the CEO a former Apple or Computer guru? I think Ronald Reagan said that all of life’s problems have answers in the Bible. If more leaders consulted this ancient wisdom we’d surely see less failure.