Our value system determines every choice we make. James, by asking the rhetorical question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” assumes that we will readily recognize God’s models of behavior.
The word wise (Gk. sophos) describes moral insight and skill in its practical application to life’s situations.
Understanding refers to intellectual and scientific knowledge. “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment” (Prov 4:7). In the Scriptures, there are two kinds of wisdom: man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom.
Solomon, full of God’s wisdom, wrote of the consequences of worldly wisdom: self–centered, selfish indulgences that result in foolishness, senselessness, frustration and futility. He concluded, “I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind” (Eccl 1:16–-18). Human wisdom is a mirage.
Job asked, “Where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12). Then he answers, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (28:28). True, beneficial wisdom only comes from above. It is not a matter of how much we know but of how much we trust, love, and obey the Lord’s words.
Most people believe their understanding is as good as, or better than, others’—-this foolish thinking (Prov 12:15) leads them to “bitter envy and self–seeking [i.e., selfish ambition] in [their] hearts,” as well as boasting. Denying or lying against the truth “does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:14–-16). What a person trusts to be true determines how he lives.
God’s wisdom is evident: “By his good conduct—-his works [are] done in the gentleness [of] wisdom.” Such “gentleness,” or meekness, puts other’s needs first and self–interest last, which is the objective of God’s wisdom: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). They will know how to lead in Christ’s kingdom when He comes.
“Lord Jesus, I pray You will make my good works evident and give me the wisdom to do them with gentleness and meekness.”