“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13, ESV)
I live about 20 minutes from Longwood Gardens, a sprawling botanical garden that covers over a thousand acres. Between the Terrace Restaurant and the Conservatory, there’s a lot of construction going on to improve and expand visitor experience. You can hear the roar of the heavy equipment moving the earth out of the way in service to the construction plans. They’ve got a big wall set up around the area to keep the public out and to allow the equipment its space to maneuver. In that wall, they have placed windows so that people can look in and see all that’s going on, and see the project as it takes shape.
That’s what James does in this text. He says our hearts are loud with the sound of activity. The construction crew of wisdom is at work, busy with the building project of our lives. James calls us over to the window to peer in. And what he calls our attention to is not just all the fascination of the heavy equipment rumbling around. He calls our attention to the manufacturer of the machinery, and tells us to take a careful look. James says, “Yes, wisdom is at work in your hearts, churning out its product, but what kind of wisdom is it?”
At this juncture in his letter, James warns us of a counterfeit wisdom. He has already spoken to us of a spiritual adversary and he will speak later in chapter 4 of resisting the devil. Here he urges us to great caution and careful examination of what exactly is on the work site of our hearts. James tells us to be on guard against a wisdom that is not from above, a wisdom that he describes as “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
James begins his observations about wisdom with a “who” question.” “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (James 3:13a). James is not looking for a name but for a type of person, particularly one whose conduct of life reflects true wisdom.
As we saw in chapter one, wisdom that is consistent with genuine faith comes from God, looks at life from the perspective of God, lives life God’s way and serves God’s ends. Wisdom involves a Godward life. Like the flower that bends toward the light of the sun, so wisdom causes us to incline our faces to our God.
That’s why James says that wisdom that is the real deal will show up in character and behavior marked by that wisdom. Strangely, James speaks of the “meekness of wisdom” (v. 13b). We might expect strength of wisdom or skill of wisdom. Why meekness?
Meekness is associated with humility, a key characteristic for kingdom life and spiritual warfare. Such wisdom always adopts the posture of a sub-contractor, deferring to God, serving His ends, following His blueprint.
1. How does wisdom relate to Kingdom plan, process, and progress?
2. How does humility relate to wisdom?
“Heavenly Father, help me to trust in You with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge You. Help me not to be not wise in my own eyes but to fear You, and turn away from evil.”