Evidence of Wisdom (James 3:13) ~ A Daily Devotion for February 5, 2014

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” ~ James 3:13

Explanation of the Text: The text begins with what appears to be a question, but it actually is more than that. It is a challenge to the people meaning, if you are truly wise as you claim to be, then prove it through the works that true wisdom will produce.[1] There are two words to be understood here. The first is the Greek word for wise, σοφός (sophós). At the very foundation of the word is the understanding that this refers to a learned person; often we associate it with Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates. However, for the Hebrews, this word had greater significance in that it was theocentric instead of anthropocentric (God-centered instead of man-centered) indicating a fear of God coupled with an understanding of His ways.[2] As John MacArthur points out, “the Hebrews infused it with the much richer meaning of skillfully applying knowledge to the matter of practical living.”[3] The Word for understanding is found only here in the New Testament (it is found in Deuteronomy in the Septuagint). It is equivalent to the idea when we call someone an expert. The person has an understanding and extensive comprehension of their field of study. Putting these two concepts together then, the question, or rather the challenge is, ‘Who has the true skill in living a God-centered life? Is it you?’

Immediately following the challenge, we then learn that the person who is adept at living a God-centered life will be seen through His conduct. Pointing to Dibelius,[4] Douglas Moo points out that the second half of the verse can be confusing because it points out two separate pieces to wisdom: (1) Wisdom will produce works, and (2) Wisdom is to be humble.[5] Wisdom is knowledge that is being lived out. Therefore, it will be evidence by good conduct in daily living. Likewise, in the good conduct an evidence of humility will be existent and seen.

Examination & Application of the Text:  In Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10, we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom and all knowledge. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 1, we find out that Christ is wisdom in the flesh. What is the point of noting these verses? James is calling on believers to recognize that if you are truly a wise person, then it will be evidenced in your life through good conduct. To truly live out a life of wisdom shown by that good conduct, it must first begin with a fear of the Lord. If you do not fear the Lord, wisdom cannot exist. This fear of the Lord will lead a person to recognize who they are, and their need for Christ. This is the second piece. Wisdom cannot exist apart from Jesus Christ, because He is wisdom. Therefore, the first application of this text must challenge each of us to examine our relationship with the Lord. Do we have a healthy fear of the Lord? Desire to do the will of the Lord, to live out His word, must begin with a reverence for who He is first and foremost.

The second part must be to live out the wisdom that comes from the truth. That is to live out the word of God, integrating it into every aspect of daily living. This requires a submission to the Lordship of Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit because it cannot be done in human strength alone.

Finally, there must be humility involved. Humility, that characteristic which makes each person teachable, is evidence of genuine wisdom according to the words of James.

Each day lived in wisdom will give evidence by the conduct you have. Therefore, as you examine yourself today, examine who Christ is in your life and allow the Holy Spirit to filter out through you that others may be motivated to come to a saving relationship with Him.

[1] Douglas Moo, James, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 136.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #4680.

[3] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible – English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 1881.

[4] M. Dibelius wrote a commentary on the Epistle of James in a series called Kritish-exegetisher Kommentar that was revised by H. Greevan and published in English in 1976.

[5] Douglas Moo, James, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 136.

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