Wise Guys and Wise Persons

by Stan Mitchell
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life” (James 3:13).
“Mensa” is an exclusive organization composed of those who are deemed to be geniuses. Only the truly intelligent need apply. They have meetings where they express their erudition, I suppose, and a newsletter of the same name that is, presumably, full of intelligent and brilliant insights. Doctors and scientists and members of “think tanks” join this group.
They are undeniably smart, but they are not wise.
Albert Einstein was perhaps the most brilliant mind of this century, perhaps the most intelligent man who ever lived. He proposed the Theory of Relativity, and played a part in discovering how to split the atom. He wrote many insightful things.
He was undeniably intelligent, but he may not have been wise.
When the Bible speaks of “wisdom,” or “foolishness,” you must understand that it is not talking about IQ, or the amount of “gray matter” one possess. The Bible does not mean to be insulting when it calls someone a “fool.” Such a person is not a buffoon, or a moron. He is simply not wise by God’s definition.
James helps us to see “wisdom” the way God does. The truly wise person does not “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” in his heart. Wise people are “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
Wisdom has to do with our behavior. A wise person displays the sweet spirit of Jesus. He does not love a “good fight,” he loves peace between brethren. He does not have ambition that by its selfishness steps on others.
Hannah the mother of Samuel may not have been a genius, but she was wise.
Nathaniel the skeptic from Bethsaida may not have been a member of Mensa, but he was wise.
You remember the story of the wise and foolish builders? It was one of the earliest Bible stories you ever learned. You have probably sung the song a million times, mimicking the action of the “rains” and the “floods.” Jesus defines the wise man as the one who “hears my words, and does them” (Matthew 7:24-27). He similarly describes a “fool” as one who “hears” his words, but “does not do them.”
So wisdom is not what you know, because both people knew what Christ wanted. The wise person lived by it.
So I say it, not proudly, but gratefully; I belong to an inclusive organization. It’s called the church. Those who live by the organization’s charter are wise. Not geniuses, necessarily, but wise.
Would you care to join?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan began preaching in 1976, and worked in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He served as preacher with the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He was Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He was married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He authored five books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs; Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song; Equipping the Saints for Ministry; and Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation. Stan passed away 19 Feb. 2019.

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