God’s Word for You
James 3:13 Humble wisdom
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 7, 2020
James moves away from speech to thoughts. Rather than talk about intelligence or wisdom as something one has or doesn’t have, as it often is presented in the Proverbs, James assumes a certain amount of wisdom and intelligence in everyone. But what kind of wisdom do we have? Is it wisdom from above, or wisdom from below?
The Wisdom from Above
13 Who is wise and intelligent among you? Let him show by his good way of living that he does things in wise
James always acts like a coach. By asking the question, “Who is wise among you”? he engages his readers (the team) into wanting to be able to answer “Me! I am!” He could have said, “If anyone is wise…” the way Paul sometimes does (1 Corinthians 11:34) and John, too (1 John 2:5, 2:14, 4;15, 4:20, 5:16), but by getting us involved emotionally he produces a response from out of our hearts. He drives our will with the word of God.
True godly wisdom and honest intelligence involve faith, and they are based on faith in Christ. Human wisdom doesn’t lead to faith at all, but to misguided arrogance, doubt, or despair. Faith does not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:5). Knowing what God has done for us and putting our trust in his promises through Jesus is what faith is all about.
James tells us to pick up that faith like a baton in a relay race and run with it. Show your faith by the way that you live! Do the things that you do in “wise gentleness.” Gentleness (or meekness in the sense of being humble) is stressed in many places. “You save the humble” (Psalm 18:27), “he guides the humble” (Psalm 25:9), “The meek will inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:11), “the Lord sustains the humble” (Psalm 147:6), and “The Lord crowns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). Also: “God gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34). But James adds something to the idea of humility. True humility or gentleness is done in wisdom, or seen the other way around, true wisdom also involves gentleness.
The gentleness of our conduct with each other is the way we show the faith behind our wisdom, because God is gentle, patient, and gracious with us. There is unfailing gentleness in the way the Lord sends his word and his forgiveness to us again and again, all throughout our lifetimes. He could easily say, “This man should have learned not to sin years ago; I will give up on him today.” But he doesn’t. As long as we have life and faith in Christ, we remain in his grace.
We deserve but grief and shame,
Yet his words, rich grace revealing,
Pardon, peace, and life proclaim;
Here their ills have perfect healing.
Who with humble hearts believe—
Jesus sinners does receive.
Come, O sinners, one and all,
Come, accept his invitation.
Come, obey his gracious call;
Come and take his free salvation!
Firmly in these words believe—
Jesus sinners does receive. (Christian Worship 304:2,4)
Pastor Timothy Smith