I have always considered myself intelligent. It’s a trait I hold fast to when asserting myself in any situation that leaves me utterly lost. I can pick up bits of information quickly, and regurgitate facts as if I’ve studied a subject for years. It helps mask the blank education spaces on my resume; it helps me pad my very limited life experience. It also gave me this unspoken permission to feel superior to those who I deemed less knowledgable. If I applied myself and constantly sought to learn more, then why shouldn’t others do the same? Why should I not consider myself, albeit just the smallest amount, better than them? And why would I ever choose to have compassion towards ignorance?
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”
James 3:13 speaks of a slightly different kind of knowledge, one paired with insight that only God can provide. It’s an understanding of truth that I am still trying to come to terms with. It elevates itself above scholarly arrogance and into the realm of spiritual wisdom.
Wise and understanding do not only reflect the possession of knowledge. The Hebrew meaning of “understanding” translates to the ability to skillfully apply knowledge to the art of practical living.
James is asking the reader, “Who here knows how to live?”.
The answer can only be found in those who are truly living for Christ, because all other ambition leads to “disorder and every vile practice”.
This means that Godly wisdom sets itself apart from the wisdom of man. In its meekness, it seeks first to remain pure, then to bring peace. It’s the reason that I pray silently during difficult conversations, lest I open my mouth and allow the arrogance of the world to spill out. That’s something I have had to constantly be aware of since becoming a believer. Quick-witted remarks meant to highlight another’s incompetence are not the marks of Godly, meek wisdom. Dismissing someone’s problems because I do not feel the issue is worthy of discussion does not model me after the wise counselor. I can not choose to constantly overlook those who aren’t like me and still confess that Jesus died for all.
Knowledge is a powerful tool. We should absolutely strive to have a right knowledge of God. Proverbs says “lips that speak knowledge are like a rare jewel”. Paul encourages the study and precise application of God’s word throughout all of his writings, and most notably in 2 Timothy 2:15. When we have a correct view of God, then we are able to live in obedience to what He commands. It’s only then will we live with the type of understanding James is speaking of; wisdom that drives us to be full of mercy, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Wisdom that reminds us to put others above ourselves because we know that God, in His sovereignty, will take care of us.
Wisdom that thrives in meekness and grace.
I challenge you to ask yourself “does my knowledge of God lead me to live a life that delights in peace and the building up of others?” If not, you aren’t alone. Pray. Study. Understand. Apply.
Laura is twenty-seven years old and lives in the University area of Charlotte, North Carolina. She enjoys reading, specifically books with a hint of mystery. She excels in satire and has a love for sarcasm in small doses. She is currently prepping to travel to Brazil this summer to serve young women in Maceio.