Much hand-wringing and consternation occurs among Christ-followers who are frustrated with and taken aback by the worldliness of the world with its flaunting and glorification of sin. “Why can’t they see?” is the unspoken question that drives many to work harder, to argue longer, and allow the anxiety to build within them.
The fruit will never come from such a confrontation because the argument is with a depraved human being. They are the world. They are in and of the world. We are of the Spirit and what we seek to see in them is that which is spiritually discerned,1 something those without the Spirit can never grasp. We will never argue such people into the kingdom. Attempting to do so bypasses a foundational principle.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.– Proverbs 9:10, NIV
The foundation, the bedrock of wisdom is “the fear of the LORD,” something the world does not have. Fear of the LORD is the genesis of wisdom and insight. Debate, apologetics, and extensive study are all good things. But without the foundation of the fear of the LORD, none of it will come to fruition. We do not find the LORD through wisdom. We find wisdom through the fear of the LORD, for that is the beginning of wisdom.
Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.– Proverbs 9:1, NIV
Atop our foundation of the fear of the LORD, a house of wisdom is built, and this house’s superstructure seems to have seven stalwart pillars. To identify these, we look to the New Testament book of wisdom, the book of James. It is James who instructs, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”2
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, NIV
The first pillar listed is the column in the center, where load bearing is the greatest. This is the column of purity.
Purity has taken, and continues to endure, a tremendous beating in more liberal wings of Christian thought. We hear and read much about the “evils of the purity culture” with reference to the historical church’s stand for sexual purity.
To be candid, I don’t understand this backlash against purity. That statement is key! I don’t understand. In no way do I dismiss or deny these people’s pain. I’m just saying that I don’t understand how a call for purity has contributed to or driven that reality for them.
Scriptural calls for purity abound, purity both in the hearts and in our sexuality. ἁγνός (hagnos) is a term of innocence, consecration, freedom from carnal cravings and pursuits. This is a heart wholly set aside for the love, glory, and service of God.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.– Psalm 24:3-4, NIV
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.– Matthew 5:8, NIV
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.– 1 Timothy 5:22, NIV
Peaceable & Gentle
On the left and right sides of purity we find peaceable and gentle.
The pillar of peace is one that both makes peace where peace is needed, and maintains peace where it already exists. Where some appear to thrive on opposition, strife, and contention, the pillar of peace stands in opposition to such.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.– Romans 12:18, NIV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;– Philippians 4:5, NIV
The pillar of gentleness is not stern or rigorous. It is not easily moved to fury or displays of temper. It is not harsh, rude, or overbearing. Gentleness makes lenient allowances for others where harshness would not do so.
The gentle person does not deliberately cause fights, but neither does he compromise the truth in order to keep peace. Carl Sandburg described Abraham Lincoln as a man of “velvet steel.” That is a good description of gentleness.– Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 365.
Reasonable & Merciful
The next two outer pillars of wisdom are reasonable and merciful.
The wise disciple is open to persuasion, willing to yield. This is the antithesis of hard-headedness and stubbornness. This is not lack of conviction, but a willingness to hear your opponent’s viewpoint.
Merciful, in this verse, is evinced by “good fruits.” Mercy is likely the driver behind an earlier statement in James.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.– James 1:27, NIV
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment– James 2:13, NIV
Impartial & Sincere
The final, outside pillars of wisdom are impartiality and sincerity.
We know that God is no respecter of persons,3 but rather God is a respecter of character. God does not show partiality and disciples of Jesus must not do so either.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.– James 2:1, NIV
…have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?– James 2:4, NIV
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.– James 2:9, NIV
The term sincere is, in the original language, a term of unity. It is non-separatist, non-sectarian. Some translations, picking up on that lack of duality render it, “not hypocritical.” Not two-faced.
Consider it in conjunction with the pillar of impartiality, and then consider the apostle Paul’s teaching to the church at Rome, “Let love be genuine.”4
A life of wisdom is a life founded on the bedrock fear of the LORD with supporting pillars of purity, peacefulness, gentleness, reasonableness, helpfulness, humility, and sincerity. A life structured by this design is one that will withstand any test by the evil one.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.