The English language never ceases to bewilder me. With all of our idioms and colloquialisms it’s amazing that anyone can “talk good American” at all! I know this point has been made time and time again, but the importance of how we use language cannot be stressed enough.

Here’s one example of how ridiculous we are with out use of language:

  • Bears and worms – nothing alike until you add the word “gummy”
  • Man and guy – synonyms until you add the prefix “wise”
I want to be considered a wise man, but I’m probably more like a wise guy. I’d rather give wise sayings, but more often I give wise cracks. I’d rather my wisdom be legitimate, not ironic.
In Ecclesiastes it seems that the Teacher is using “wisdom” ironically at times. In 7:23 he says, “All this I tested by wisdom and I said, ‘I am determined to be wise’ – but this was beyond me. Whatever exists is far off and most profound – who can discover it?”
Throughout the book he claims to be pursuing the meaning of life with the help of wisdom. How does that work out for him? Sex, drugs, alcohol, girls, food, money, power, work – “wisdom” supposedly guides him through these avenues to discover meaning and purpose.
It’s all to no avail, surprise, surprise.
So my question is this: What kind of wisdom was he listening to?
But wisdom is wisdom, right? Maybe not. In his letter James makes it very clear that there is an obvious distinction between the wisdom from the world and the wisdom from God. First of all, true wisdom is given when asked for, not discovered when pursued. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
Remember, Solomon had to ask God for wisdom to rule the people well. God was so impressed by this request that he gave Solomon true wisdom along with wealth and longevity. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes is trying to find wisdom apart from God. He is exploring the world and all that it offers. He strives for it, adding one thing to another.
Again, to no avail.
Second, the wisdom from the world is not even true wisdom. If you get wisdom from your experience in a sinful, fallen, corrupted world, then it’s guaranteed that the wisdom you find will be sinful and corrupted. Just check out the contrast James offers:

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. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18)

How much of the “wise” advice in this world is based out of envy or selfish ambition. The whole “American Dream” is based on envy and selfish ambition! Do well in school so you can go to a good college. Pick a good major so that you can get a high paying job so that you can get a big house and a nice car. Get a beautiful wife and have 2 children and a dog. You’ve got to keep up appearances. You wouldn’t want anyone thinking you are weak or incompetent. Take the best vacations. Throw the best parties. Get ahead any way you can.

It’s all about envy, competition, and selfish ambition. That’s the corrupt, sinful wisdom you’re left with if you try to get it from this world.

Wisdom from above, given by God, is all about God and others. It’s pure, first and foremost. It’s not going to be tainted by the corrosive vices of culture. It’s peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Real wisdom looks out for others. Real wisdom tries to make the world a better place for everyone, not just number one. It’s more concerned with making others look good and helping others prosper and get ahead.

The results? Worldly wisdom perpetuates sin and corruption. The end product is more disorder and evil practices. Heavenly wisdom, however, combats the effects of sin. The wisdom from God, which leads to peacemaking, results in a harvest, an abundance, a cornucopia of righteousness!

So be a wise man, not a wise guy. Seek wisdom from God and nowhere else. The world needs more wise men.