James 3:13

Monday, 5 August 2019

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13

James has been speaking of the tongue, and in particular that of it issuing forth both blessings and curses. He shows that this is contradictory and illogical. Now, he turns that into a question. “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

It is James’ way of stimulating thought, “If it is contradictory and illogical to issue forth blessings to God and yet also curse men created in God’s image, then who will learn from my words now? It is the one who is wise and understanding.”

The words are well translated. The first one is sophos. It is a primary word which indicates being learned, skilled, clever, and so on. The second word, epistémón, is found only here. As sophos is a general wisdom, epistémón is a more precise knowledge of something. It signifies being skillful or experienced.

Between the two, one might think of a person who can fix lots of things – a jack of all trades. He is wise. And yet, he is also especially good at repairing intricate mechanical things. He has understanding. This is who James is directing his words to. If there is such a person, “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”

Obviously, James is speaking of moral wisdom and understanding. And more especially, he is still referring to those who would purpose to be teachers (see James 3:1). He then shows that by demonstrating good conduct he is wise. And that by having his works done in the meekness of wisdom, he is showing understanding.

The word “wisdom” in here is sophia. It signifies insight, intelligence, etc. It is the root of our words “sophistication” and “philosophy.” It is one who takes the wisdom and uses it properly, as an art form.

The intent is that a person who is wise and understanding will go through his life (signified by the word “works”) being careful to display good conduct, and this walk is to be in meekness (humility) which requires wisdom. In other words, it is almost a form of art to turn his wisdom to proper living and proper instruction.

Life application: The Psalmist of old reflects in his words the same concept of wisdom as James does –

“Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43

This is the final verse of a psalm which speaks of the greatness of God and his marvelous deeds done among the sons of men – both directly and through creation.

For the person James addresses, the good conduct of his works which are done in the meekness of wisdom are those that acknowledge and consider the great love of the Lord. If we can keep what we are doing in that perspective, then our deeds will truly be deeds of righteousness. This is because they show both wisdom and understanding about the nature of God which leads to an obedient life in Him.

By the very nature of loving the Lord, and considering His continual and undying love for us, we can then respond to others in faith and in good deeds toward them. Ultimately, what benefit is it to do deeds of goodness for others without considering God? In the end, they are shallow and meaningless.

A philanthropist, for example, can give billions of dollars for AIDS funding, but without faith in God and considering His hand in our existence, the gesture has only temporary benefit. Only the body, which perishes, is relieved. But the soul of the sinner isn’t changed at all. In fact, its allegiance has actually been directed further away from God. By giving credit to the philanthropist, or those who worked in the process, the Lord is denied the credit He is due. However, if the person did these things in the name of the Lord, then He would be rightly considered as the true Donor of the goodness.

When using our tongue in speaking the deeds we have accomplished, remember to humbly acknowledge and consider the Lord’s hand in the process, deferring the credit to Him.

Lord Jesus, it is hard to accomplish our deeds and not want credit for them. But Lord, give us the ability to pass the honor on to You. May You alone be acknowledged for the works accomplished in the course of human events, even the small portion of them that we add to that stream of events. Yes Lord, may all of the glory rightly be lifted to You. Amen.

Leave a Reply