Wisdom: Godly vs worldly wisdom

WISDOM: Godly vs. worldly wisdom


We can acquire vast amounts of knowledge but still make the wrong choices in life. It takes wisdom to decipher what is constructive, timely and appropriate for the long run. For believers, wisdom is not just the well-advised application of factual knowledge. Our wisdom comes from the ultimate Source of all wisdom, understanding, and counsel, God Himself.

In God’s opinion, “whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool“.

Proverbs 21:30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.

Proverbs 28:26 ESV Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Godly vs. worldly wisdom The Bible contrasts two types of wisdom, God’s and the world’s.

Jesus calls us to be as wise and shrewd as serpents, but this wisdom is very unlike the world’s wisdom. Godly wisdom is innocent, gentle, reasonable, peace-loving, impartial and sincere. It is full of mercy and willing to yield to others. It leads to godliness and peaceful relationships with others.  

Matthew 10:16 ESV  “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

James 3:17-18 ESV  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Worldly secular wisdom tends to be self-centred. It exalts ourselves. When our hearts are not submitted to God, we will harbour pride, jealousy and selfish ambitions and use our wisdom against others. God’s Word calls such wisdom “earthly, unspiritual, demonic“. Jesus pointed out that Satan fosters such thinking and gets people to focus on things from a human point of view, not from God’s.

Also, see Judgment and the abuse of wisdom.

James 3:14-16 ESV  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. 

Matthew 16:23 ESV  … “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

We see the circumstances, God sees the destination…

Our lives are the result of all the choices we make. It takes wisdom to ensure that our choices come together so that we end up at the narrow gate of eternal life, not the wide gate to eternal destruction. To find the path to the narrow gate, we need to seek wisdom and guidance from God. He will show us the way.

Matthew 7:13-14 ESV  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Psalm 32:8 ESV  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Godly wisdom could even result in us bringing many others with us to the narrow gate. Worldly wisdom often tends to result in destruction.

Some qualities of godly wisdom

You can recognise wise people in your life. They bring a sense of calm and peace wherever they go. They are not cowardly, petty or arrogant. Neither are they easily fazed by challenging situations. They are quick to go to God for wisdom. Here are some descriptions of the wise from the Bible.


1. Revere God

Psalm 111:10 ESV  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

2. Submit to God’s will

Colossians 1:9 ESV  … we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

3. Carefully consider their ways

Ephesians 5:15 ESV  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

4. Are humble

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

5. Acknowledge ignorance

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 ESV  Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 

6. Practice self-control 

Proverbs 16:32 ESV  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

7. On the watch for deception

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

8. Are open to advice

Proverbs 12:15 ESV  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

9. Edify and correct others for their own good

 Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

The good news is that godly wisdom can be gained and learnt.

Proverbs 4:5 ESV  Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.


Practicing Godly wisdom

We receive wisdom from God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates through our spirit and inner conscience. As we pray and quiet down to listen to Him, He will give us an “inner knowing” and plant insights into our minds. Also, see How to test for the Holy Spirit

Isaiah 11:2 ESV And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Job 38:36 - who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?

Job 32:8-9 ESV-- But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.

1. Begin with humility and turn towards God

Reverence and humility before God are crucial to gaining godly wisdom. The humble will listen, observe, accept correction and grow wiser. The proud only collect more knowledge. God calls this folly and futile.


Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

1 Corinthians 3:19-20 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”


2. Turn away from worldly wisdom

The world is filled with teachings, quotes, and ideologies that sound like great wisdom, but will ultimately, lead us away from God.

Proverbs 14:12 ESV  There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Worldly wisdom will lead us to gratify our desires, rather than submit to God. The Bible calls us to “set the mind on the Spirit” so we will experience God’s “life and peace”. We need to put away or repent of relying on our own understanding or logic as to how things work based on the world’s “teachings” and renew our minds with God’s Word. This is how we will be able to follow His ultimate wisdom. See Spot the lie in popular catchphrases.

Romans 8:6-8 ESV  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


3. Slow down, quiet our thoughts and ask God

It takes discipline to quiet our minds and wait on God. When we fix our thoughts on Him, He will reveal the path forward. He even promises to be generous with His limitless wisdom when we ask Him with simple faith.


Isaiah 26:3 ESV  You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

James 1:5-8 ESV  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

The temptation is always to ruminate on the “what if’s” in life but such thinking will prove to be futile because with God, there is only one way, and that is His good and perfect will. We need to beware not to let some inner unspoken fear or personal insecurity drive us to “look at all the possibilities” in life. Such fears are not from God.


4. Test our thoughts 

Something can sound 95% right and still be wrong.

Just as the Holy Spirit will give us godly wisdom, Satan can also give us worldly wisdom. It is important to ask the Holy Spirit to help us examine and test the direction of our thoughts so that we follow His voice, instead of the enemy’s. This is one way we “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”. 


Lamentations 3:40 ESV  Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!

1 John 4:1 ESV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…


5. Stay away from ungodly influences

Ungodly influences come from many different sources, from family traditions, the media, society, pop culture, songs etc. Ultimately, they will fill our minds with insecurity, pride, doubt, and worldly human logic. We are to keep our thoughts pure, uncorrupted and innocent so our thoughts don’t get swayed away from God’s will. 


Romans 16:19 ESV  For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.

Proverbs 3:7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

If we feel as if we are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about” in our thoughts, then we need to examine if we are being blown about by ungodly teaching or lies that sound like the truth.

Ephesians 4:14 ESV so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.


6. Choose our counselors wisely

It is wise to listen to good advice. Even so, we need to be selective about who we turn to for advice. Seeking wisdom from prudent God-fearing people is good but seeking God’s ultimate wisdom is best. No one knows what tomorrow holds as clearly as God does, and no detail is too insignificant to bring before God.

Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.


7. Know God’s Word well

Nothing beats studying God’s Word. This is how we will be able to decipher His ways, His will, and His character. The wise know that God will never do anything that’s out of character nor will He change His Word. 

Psalm 19:7-8 ESV  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

1 Samuel 15:29 ESV  And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”


8. Make use of our wisdom for God’s glory

The wise will choose the right time to speak up for what is right, stand up against injustice, and correct those who are heading towards destruction – all because they consider others more highly than themselves and love them as God loves them.

When we take this loving attitude to co`unsel, advise and correct others, the wisdom we bring will be appreciated because it will prevent more damage. At the end of the day, when we combine wisdom with God’s grace, He is glorified and praised.

Proverbs 15:2 ESV  The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.



Printer Printable Version