Summary: Wisdom is the ability to apply the Truth of scripture to our daily lives.
Finding True Wisdom
November 5, 2006
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
The centrality of wisdom (13)
James intentionally weaves two key terms together to intensify their impact on the readers. He does so in the form of a question: who is wise and understanding among you? The term wise was seen in two major ways. The Greeks viewed wisdom as speculative knowledge, theory or philosophy. The Hebrews saw wisdom as the practical application of knowledge to daily living. This would have connected with the readers in an important way. They would have seen the need to apply the truths that they knew from scripture to their situations.
The term understanding referred to having special knowledge or abilities. This would have been in the form of special training that would have given the person a specialized trade, such as carpentry or tent making, or would have made them a professional. These jobs would have been in law, medicine or even training to be a priest.
Wisdom and understanding of Christ is revealed in the way that we live. It is shown in the depth of our character and convictions. It shows itself in the way we live from day to day. Wisdom gives us the desire to live to make an impact on the world around us. Wisdom reveals the changes that need to happen in our own lives.
While we do not claim to be wise in a worldly manner, we must strive to live in a wise manner within the world. The guidelines for wise living flow out of the God’s Word. Scripture gives us the map for how we can live to please God and bring glory to His name.
If we claim to have wisdom from God’s Word, we need to prove it by our actions. In chapter 2, James said that faith without works is worthless. Here in chapter 3, he says clearly that wisdom and understanding are worthless without a transformed life. Our lives need to be living examples of the power of Christ and the need to apply scriptural principles to our lives.
The word that James uses here for deeds literally focuses on the employment of an individual and how they do their job. James is telling the readers that they need to follow Christ with the same focus that they use in their employment. More importantly James wants that same kind of focus for Christ to be embedded in everything that you do. Your job for Christ on this earth is to live upright lives.
As we strive to live wise lives for Christ, there is a natural implication to live in humility. Christ expects us to live in genuine humility. Humility is a major character trait that flows out of wisdom. It is being gentle in spirit, mild in disposition and meek in action. This means that we actively love others, looking out for their best interests while still being willing and able to give correction and discipline. The humble person lives in the power of God, having great strength but also lives in a spirit of self control. James calls us to living humble lives because it leads to holiness.