I had begun memorizing it a few days ago, that haunting question from James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Of course I meant to memorize the rest of the verse and the verses that follow, but some of my kids came down with the flu, so for the next few days I cuddled and comforted and that one question kept rolling around my mind. “Who is wise and understanding among you?”
Who indeed? How does one measure wisdom and understanding? What evidence do you look for? Please tell us James, because certainly there is not a lot of agreement on the subject.
Thankfully, James makes it pretty clear.
It isn’t necessarily being a Bible School graduate.
Or, for that matter, holding a ministry position.
It’s not necessarily the one gaining ministry reputation or influence.
Neither is it the one who appears to have it most together or have the best five year plan.
It’s also not the one with the quickest reply or the most answers.
Which is a little frightening because that means you can have all of those things going for you and still not be wise.
Sobering, isn’t it?
James goes on to say genuine wisdom is proved by a life lived well, by serving well, and by doing it all in the right spirit, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (v. 13). When I start to evaluate how well I live and serve in the right spirit it can be quite humbling. Wisdom first has to be proved and backed up by your lifestyle and your service, and then still it is only legitimate if it’s accompanied by the right heart attitude, “the meekness of wisdom.” It’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. Wisdom shows up in humble, joyful obedience and service over the long haul.
There’s this quote I emblazon across planners and spreadsheets, “God cares about the pace and tone of our work as much as the content and final result” (Gavin Ortlund). I need to hear that everyday because I can have a bit of a bulldozer mentality when it comes to getting things done. It makes me very productive and not always fun to be around! But James 3:13 tells us it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it – it’s the pace and the tone. Wisdom isn’t stressed as it works for God; it’s not barking out orders or getting impatient. It’s not watching the hands on the clock spin while the blood pressure rises. It’s not wondering how this service will make me look to others, or whether other people will notice. It’s not being resentful of the interruptions that come (most often in the form of people who are precious to Him).
And most importantly, it’s not feeling so rushed or distracted that I can’t do the work prayerfully – worshipfully – before an audience of One.
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