who is wise and understanding among you? by his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. but if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [james 3:13-15]
when we talk about wisdom, who comes to mind? lot family leaders? our church elders? your mentor or discipler? maybe you feel like you could never obtain their level of biblical knowledge. maybe you even feel like you’re so far behind that you think the God who you want to know would be embarrassed to know you.
the bible makes quite a distinction between knowledge and wisdom. knowledge is having the information. wisdom is putting it into practice because you truly understand it. this passage speaks to those who take pride in their knowledge, and even use it as a source of contention and division in the church, being jealous of the way God is using others. these prideful students of the scriptures had no interest in using their knowledge to the glory of God, but to puff themselves up. 1 corinthians 8:1 says, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” and this is wisdom. knowledge inspired by love. james says wisdom is shown in meekness. living in a way that builds others up, not looking to call attention to ourselves, but loving in a way that shows what a glorious God we serve.
so can you be a wise beginner? in the account of the pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus tells of a man full of knowledge who thanked God that he was so righteous, reminding God of all of his good works. then of another man, a tax collector, a sinner, who humbly cried out for the mercy of God, unable even to raise his eyes to heaven. which of these men was wise? the pharisee knew about God’s holiness and righteousness, but his thoughts and words clearly displayed that this knowledge hadn’t reached his heart. but the tax collector understood God’s holiness, righteousness, and his own sinfulness in a way that led to repentance. the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (proverbs 9:10)
if you’re a believer, you can practice wisdom because it’s a gift from the holy spirit. if you have read that God is love, you can put that into practice. if you have learned that God is forgiving, and the spirit prompts you to extend that forgiveness to someone, that’s wisdom. so don’t be intimidated by long time believers who can outdo you theologically. you can practice wisdom now. does it mean we shouldn’t seek knowledge? of course not! the more we seek God in his word, the more beautiful his character will become to us, and the more we will want to show his character to the world. but God doesn’t put new believers on probation while they study for their learner’s permit. we can serve now.
finally, if we examine our hearts and realize that we do use knowledge to glorify ourselves, this is something we can repent of. maybe we have knowledge but are struggling to know how to apply to life. there’s hope. james 1:5 says “if you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. he will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT) we know that wisdom is from God, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. ask for wisdom when you read his word, when you face trials, when you receive blessing, or make decisions. ask for it today. he will give it to you, so that your boasting will be in him.
~ arwen eastman