Wisdom and its Imitators
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom(James 3:13).”
I’m always intrigued at the psychology behind marketing and advertisements, particularly how certain people are chosen to promote products or services. It’s usually a celebrity or well-known athlete who knows nothing about the product being endorsed. Mere success and name recognition are often confused with wisdom. It’s refreshing to know that when we think about what true wisdom and understanding are, they have little to do with outward success or attraction. James points us to two specific things: conduct and attitude. In other words, what you do and the way you do it.
The wise and understanding will act in a certain way. They will obey God’s Word. They will not follow the throngs of people pursuing personal pleasure at the expense of honoring God and serving others. As you know, there are many opportunities to get ahead in life, often with only one requirement: you have to be willing to cheat, lie, or some other form of disobedience. In contrast to this, the Bible points us to people who live their lives according to an objective standard. They conform themselves to Scripture. These are wise people. Notice what James doesn’t say in v.13. He doesn’t say, “by his good intentions…”. Only actual obedience is a sign of wisdom.
But lest we think outward obedience is all there is to wisdom, James adds a needed supplement. He advocates a certain type of obedience. In essence, he says, the wise person offers to God and others a humble obedience. The specific word he uses is meekness; that quality of a gentle, kind disposition to others that makes their conduct all the more attractive. So often, we think of meekness as an accessory to the Christian life or even as a personality type, when, in fact, it’s a quality synonymous with many fruits of the Spirit. Peace, patience, and kindness are all similar to meekness. They are the qualities that not only reveal wisdom in a person, but inner beauty and godliness.
In our world two types of people masquerade as wise and understanding: the successful and the knowledgeable. Both cases have something in common. You often have people who have followed only one half of James’ advice. They have only acted with superficial obedience. Clearly, it takes certain types of behavior to succeed, and chief among them is hard work. But, for all their knowledge and/or wealth, they fall far short in the areas of meekness and gentleness. James calls us to show our wisdom not only in what we do, but how we do it.
Consider the people in your life who have had the greatest impact on you. Chances are, it wasn’t merely what they did or even what they said, but how they presented it. How we obey is just as much a part of obedience as what we are doing.
As you go forth today, don’t merely serve the people in your life. Serve them with the care, concern, and devotion that the Savior shows us throughout Scripture.