This is the second half of a two-part post. Taken together these posts were written to support the Reflections presented in an earlier blog titled A Critical Crossroads.
An ancient proverb says this: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” If we’re going to survive as a people and as a nation, our decisions must be founded on wisdom. But are they? Does the trajectory of our nation suggest that we are headed in the right direction? Or does it seem like just a bunch of hooey?
James 3:13-18 has guidelines that are helpful in answering these questions.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
When you hear our leaders speak, ask yourself: are their actions consistent with their words and do they reflect an attitude of servant leaderships, or do they display a bitterness, arrogance and self-centered ambition. William Barclay gives four characteristics of these people:
- They are fanatical and violently hold to views that are unbalanced and without principled conviction.
- They are bitter and seek to annihilate opponents rather than persuade them.
- They are supremely selfish and more eager to win than they are to see truth prevail.
- They are arrogant and show pride only in their own knowledge rather than with humility that there might be some things they are still in need of learning.
These characteristics don’t reflect God; they are manifestations of those who have rejected God’s supremacy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. James continues with this caution: where these kinds of wisdom prevail, we will find disorder and every evil thing.
Look around, it’s not difficult to see that the order of the past is being overturned and replaced with disorder, while time-tested truths are replaced with every evil thing. Insanity is being emboldened and enthroned.
But there is another option open to us – we can choose a wisdom that is pure, considerate, full of peace and mercy, willing to yield its rights to another, undivided in mind and without hypocrisy.
Each of us must determine which characteristics we would like to have define our lives, and the life of our culture itself. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln assessed what his United States was becoming, and judged that a house so divided could not stand. Either it would become all the one thing, or all the other.
We stand in a similar place today; we cannot remain a nation so divided. We need to pause and assess our own lives, then determine if we like what we see, and whether what we see reflects the characteristics of God or of his adversaries. Mercy and a pursuit of truth? Or a deeper descent into disorder and every evil thing?
God help us to choose wisely.