Wisdom During the COVID-19 Pandemic (James 1:5)
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
There has never been a time in my life when wisdom was more important than now as we struggle with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Should I wear a mask in public? Should I quit my job to avoid exposure or keep working and pray for the best? Should I wear gloves when I shop? Should I patronize local restaurants by ordering take-out meals or cook at home to minimize exposure? Should I avoid contact with my elderly parents? Should we have limited church services or wait until the “all-clear” has been sounded? Should I babysit for my grandchildren or avoid them to minimize exposure to them and me? These are just a few of the questions people are asking themselves and me as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. One thing is for sure: answering these kinds of questions properly requires wisdom.
The benefits of wisdom are extolled in verse after verse in Scripture. For example, James 1:5 reads as follows: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Proverbs 16:16 states: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Few would argue the need for wisdom in these troubled times, but that raises an obvious question: How do we get wisdom?
To answer this question, think of the Biblical story of Solomon. Even unbelievers are sometimes heard to say, “That person has the wisdom of Solomon.” Those who make this statement are referring to the well-known account from the Hebrew Bible in which King Solomon confronts a seemingly intractable situation. Two women are arguing over a baby. Both women claim to be the baby’s mother. King Solomon has no way of knowing which one is telling the truth. Nevertheless, as King, he is expected to sort out their conflicting claims and decide which woman will be allowed to keep the baby.
Solomon shows the wisdom he asked God for (1 Kings 3:3-9) by offering to cut the baby in half, thereby dividing it equally between the two women. As Solomon knew it would, his recommendation triggered the protective instinct of the real mother who pled with Solomon to spare the baby even if it meant giving the child up to the other woman. In this way, Solomon determined which woman was the mother and which was a fraud. Solomon brought the case to its proper conclusion not because he was intelligent, but because he was wise. The two concepts are not the same. This is an important point to understand about wisdom.
Wisdom is not a function of intelligence, education level, or knowledge. Rather, wisdom is seeking to please God in the decisions you make in all aspects of your life. This is the most important trait of people who are wise: they are committed to honoring God in everything they think, do, and say. Another important trait of wise people is learning from mistakes—their own and those of others—so they don’t repeat them.
Perhaps you have heard the story about the young man who wanted to avoid making mistakes. He approached a wise old sage and asked, “How can I avoid making mistakes?” The old sage responded, “Get wisdom.” The young man then asked, “But how do I get wisdom?” The old sage responded, “By making mistakes.” This is a cute story, but it misses an important point. Wisdom comes from God. Solomon wasn’t wise on his own account. He was wise because he asked God to grant him wisdom, which God did.
I have been asked the kinds of questions listed at the beginning of this article many times in the past few weeks as people struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Counseling clients and friends who ask me these questions hope to tap into my supposed font of wisdom. I don’t answer these questions for counseling clients or friends, just as I don’t answer them for you in this article. Rather, I do what counselors who are out of their depth often do: refer their clients to expert.
I refer you now to the same expert I refer my counseling clients and friends to: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.James 1:5 makes clear that when we need wisdom, we are to go to God to find it.As you struggle with what to do and not do during the COVID-19 pandemic, begin your search for answers with prayer.In your prayers, ask God to grant you the wisdom to make decisions that honor him.Decisions that honor God are always the right decisions.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com