“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13
James teaches us that wisdom is seen in how we act. Wisdom is meant to be practical. Wisdom is also meant to be meek – it is not about getting attention for yourself or building yourself up, but humbly serving others for the sake of the Kingdom.
In a worldly sense wisdom can often be seen as purely related to giving good advice – you go and seek out wise old sages for their advice, but James is teaching that godly wisdom is hands-on. Often people mistake intelligence for wisdom, thinking that because someone knows a lot of facts they must be wise. But James is pointing out that you can be intelligent yet unwise if your understanding doesn’t lead to good conduct, if you only have head knowledge but don’t act on it.
This can be seen all too often, as people can get their heads stuffed with biblical facts and theological terms, but they never let it impact how they live. It makes no practical difference to their lives, and therefore no difference to the lives of those around them who desperately need someone to show them the love of God.
Jesus teaches us this principle in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27). The wise man built his house on a rock, and when the flood came his house did not fall, because it had been built on the rock. His wisdom shaped how he acted. He didn’t just give out advice about how to build flood-proof houses – he acted. His wisdom was seen in what he did. The foolish man would surely have known all about the risk of building on sand from an intellectual perspective, but he didn’t let that impact how he went about building. We must not make that mistake!
We should want to be known for our wisdom. Not for our intellect or our memorisation of facts but for our wisdom. For our ability to do the right thing. And if we are to be wise that means we must ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. We must constantly seek His guidance rather than just doing what seems right to ourselves. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). As we strive to be known as wise and as we seek to show that wisdom through our actions, through our good conduct we must continually as the Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth, showing us what we must do.
We see in the example of Solomon that that is a request God loves to grant. (See 2 Kings 3:1-15). When God’s followers ask Him for wisdom, for an understanding mind so that we can discern between good and evil and lead people to God it pleases the Father. He delights to give us that wisdom when we ask, giving us wise and discerning minds so that we may live out the life He has called us to, with our good conduct humbly showing the world God’s love. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge we cannot do this in our own ability, but need guidance and wisdom from above. Then we will see great fruit from our good conduct as we let God fill us with wisdom and allow that to impact how we act.