James is one of those books that hits really hard. Short. To the point. Cut and dry. It’s vicious and unyielding, especially in the passages that relate to being careful about the things we say. With my sarcastic sense of humor, those passages make me cringe as I often let my tongue think for itself.
I find it interesting too that this verse directly follows a lengthy passage where James is explaining that not many people should be allowed to teach in the church, mainly because most people have difficulting controling their tongues. The length of the passage really comes from him talking about how people can tame all sorts of animals but that no one can tame the tongue, calling it “restless and evil, full of deadly poison.”
And then he follows up with today’s verse in James 3:13.
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
So many times I think we have this idea that someone has to be super-smart and experienced to teach others. I know that’s usually where my thoughts go. I have often ended up in situations where I have had to be a teacher (in the church and outside it too), and I have never felt like I belonged there. Because I’m not old enough. Or I haven’t had enough experience. Or I don’t have enough education.
What I thought about this morning is that I tend to consider the people who can stand up and lecture for hours using big words to be intelligent, wise people. But that’s not necessarily true. Just because someone knows a lot of big words or has been all over the world speaking or has donors and supporters behind them doesn’t automatically make that person a super-genius. Maybe they’re intelligent . . . but there’s a big difference between intelligence and wisdom (I’ve blogged on that just recently).
People who are truly wise are those people who understand God’s Word and walk with God on a daily basis. And if you’re that sort of person, this verse is talking to you. I consider myself to be in that category so I’m really interested in what this verse is saying.
Basically, it says to prove it.
If you’re wise, prove it. But do it humbly.
Can you even do that? Can you prove something humbly? Can you purposefully make a point without gloating about it? Of course. If you couldn’t, the Bible wouldn’t instruct us to live that way.
If you understand God’s ways, you will know when your behavior isn’t matching up to God’s expectations. If you are a wise person in God’s Word, you will know when your life isn’t meeting the standards God has called us to live by. And if you are a wise person, you will take the steps to correct your life — because only a foolish person is going to continue doing the wrong thing when they realize it’s wrong.
Someone once told me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different resutls.
If you want to show yourself to be a wise person, prove it by living a life that demonstrates the wisdom of God. But you have to remember that wisdom isn’t proud.
Knowledge is proud. The concept of knowledge is learning as much as you can and being loud about it. But wisdom is quiet. It’s meek experience incorporated into a life dedicated to serving others.
If you’re a wise person, you’re not going to go around barking orders at people. You aren’t going to go around pointing out the flaws and errors in people unasked. You aren’t going to thump people on the head with Scripture when they haven’t been convicted about it. Those are the people who have studied Scripture and just want to show how much of the Bible they know. Unfortunately, many of those people are teachers. And many of those people are revered because they are so intelligent.
But a wise person has control of his or her tongue. And isn’t going to ream people out for screwing up. Because a wise person has already been there, done that and got the t-shirt. A wise person understands that but for the grace of God, there go I.
If you are wise, prove it. But not by shouting Bible verses at random people. Not by going door-to-door and berating people who don’t know better. Not by lecturing new believers on scriptural concepts that have too much meat for them to chew with baby teeth. Not by using a bull horn to make people feel guilty.
If you are wise, prove it by loving people. Do good things for people without expecting thanks. Forgive people when they hurt you. Be different. Be salt. Be light. And see what happens.
People will call you wise when you don’t consider yourself to be wise. And that is the point.