Biblical, Earthly and Practical Wisdom
Biblical wisdom is the God-given ability to apply biblical principles to life. It is knowledge of God’s word rightly applied. It is valuable, you must seek it, and it will bear fruit that honors God.
The Bible has much to say about wisdom. We should value it more than jewels, gold and silver, and nothing we desire can compare to it (Proverbs 8:11, 16:16). The wise are blessed (Proverbs 3:13). You are commanded to seek it, get it and not forget it (Proverbs 4:5, 6). Wisdom must be asked for in prayer as Paul did for others (Ephesians 1:17, Colossians 1:9) and for yourself (James 1:5). Wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6), not from trusting in your own mind (Proverbs 28:26). We must be on guard against being fooled by the appearance of wisdom, always depending on Scripture (Colossians 2:23).
James 3:13-18 give us a great picture of what the fruit of wisdom will and will not be. First of all, biblical wisdom will not result in bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting or falsehood. James explicitly says this is not wisdom that comes from above but rather is earthly, unspiritual and even demonic. This is earthly wisdom. He goes on to say that jealousy and selfish ambition lead to disorder and every vile practice. Wisdom from above—on the other hand—is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, and even meek. It results in a harvest of righteousness.
There is a third type of wisdom I will call practical wisdom. It is gained over time by applying knowledge and experience and is not necessarily based on biblical principles. We all have gained varying amounts of practical wisdom. Many in the business world have immense amounts of practical wisdom you use everyday running your business or benefiting your employer. Practical wisdom can be seen when working with employees, running efficient operations, marketing your product or maintaining a competitive edge. This type of wisdom is sin neutral, meaning it must be evaluated by God’s Word on a case-by-case basis. Christians may apply practical wisdom on a daily basis as long as there is no violation of biblical principles.
It is important for us to understand the distinction between biblical, earthly, and practical wisdom. Kingdom work can only be accomplished using biblical wisdom “from above,” as James says. We can then take comfort in knowing that it is from God and will bear fruit that glorifies Him.