The “Institutes” Twice a Year

Wisdom is as wisdom gets along with other people. It’s more often phrased, “wisdom is as wisdom does,” but the right sort of wisdom does right in relationship.

The apostle Paul referred to two types of wisdom: the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God. Man’s wisdom always tries to exalt man for his wisdom. God, in His wisdom, sent His Son to take the form of a man and die on the cross in the place of men who were trying to exalt themselves for their wisdom.

The apostle James also described two types of wisdom. His alternatives came from cosmically different ends and apply to the person sitting next to you.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:13–16)

It’s as if James was spending a weekend and Corinth and decided to write a letter.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

It doesn’t matter how much you read your Bible if you are watching porn; tolerating impurity, let alone pursuing it, is not wisdom. It doesn’t matter if you come to church every Lord’s day if you won’t stop envying the other girl who’s getting more attention than you; that’s hellish. If you’ve read all the Reformers and read through Calvin’s Institutes twice a year but are unwilling to hear that you have an anger problem from any of the ten people who care about you, the demons rejoice.

All of these relational conflicts reveal which “wisdom” is in our hearts, and there can be no friendly neutrality between the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. What harvest is coming from what you’re sowing?