Wisdom without love is worthless. Love without wisdom is not quite worthless, but it may be fruitless.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, he told them that he prayed “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (1:9).
You often hear, just love people, and that’s all you need.
But that’s not all you need.
Sometimes people with the biggest heart are not as effective as they could be because they just move on emotions rather than thinking through what would be best.
That’s why Paul wanted to them to have wisdom “so that you may discern what is best” (1:10) and “be filled with the fruit of righteousness” (1:11).
Let me give a few examples of the type of wisdom that helps love.
- If we just move on what we see, we may miss people who need our attention but are not clamoring for it. We need to step back and ask, who has God put in my life that I need to pray for and minister to? The urgent easily crowds out the important.
- My experience is that the important things in life rarely get attention unless you plan for them. You won’t accidentally plan times for rest or activities with your children. The first thing you schedule in your week should be a time to plan and think through your week.
- One important thing to plan is rest. For those who work and have children, this can be very difficult. There is an endless demand to do more work and activities with your kids. But you won’t be as effective in any area, if you don’t schedule time to rest.
- As a side note, let me warn against the opposite error. Some people are so scheduled that they miss the real opportunities to do good. Remember: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken. This also takes wisdom.
- Another example is that all relationships need a balance of togetherness and separateness. I have seen this in some marriages. People never have a chance to miss each other. I have found that a surprising amount of relationship problems can be solved by recognizing this principle.
- If we are going to help people move forward, we need to show them affection, and we need to understand where they really are. For example, people in your church may say they want to attend a Sunday School class. Then, you have the class, and no one attends. They are telling you that they want something different. Some of those same people may attend a small group during the week.
- Those quickest to volunteer are not always the people you need in a position. Some people just want to do everything, but no one can. Some people won’t volunteer unless they are invited. You just have to pay attention to where people are. This takes wisdom.
Let me add here that I have learned and continue to learn this from the multiple times that I have tried to lead people and to my dismay find that no one is following me. Wisdom is a constant learning process.
How can we develop wisdom? The book of Proverbs is a good place to start. It says: “Get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
The book of Proverbs is a book that is surprisingly earthy. It tells us to listen to people, to be patient, not to praise our neighbor with a bull horn at 4:00 in the morning, to be careful about accepting gifts from the rich, to be friendly so we can have friends, and so on.
Some people are offended by its homey practicality, but you just can’t get around it. It is creational wisdom, and the wisdom of the book of Proverbs has a lot of similarities with the wisdom that you can find in a variety of religions and cultures.
So, in regards to wisdom, get it wherever you can. Personally, I have found that the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a great summary of creational wisdom. I go back to it again and again.
Listen to a variety of people. Almost everybody has something that they can teach you. Have the attitude of the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:11–12).
Pray for wisdom. God has made a promise that He will give wisdom to whomever asks in faith: “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, this will be a lifelong process of trial and error and continual learning, but it’s worth it. Love taught by wisdom will help us do what is best, be blameless on the day of Christ’s coming, and bear the fruit of righteousness.
One final point: wisdom needs love. Wisdom can easily lead to pride. Heavenly wisdom is first pure and then humble. We may have insight, but we always, always, always need to maintain an attitude of prayer and dependence on God recognizing that our fruitfulness “comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11).