The hallowed halls of academia aren’t really known for fostering a spirit of humility. Not always, of course, but often there’s a temptation toward pride that comes along with being a notch above one’s peers in intelligence and education.
James would call the smart-but-proud person a fool, or at least he seems to imply that here:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13).
There’s a message there for all of us, I think. Sometimes we religious folks are known for our Bible-toting, Scripture-quoting approach to life, and that’s not necessarily bad. It would help us all to spend more time memorizing portions of the Bible.
But knowing the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
When I was home from college one summer I worked at a bottling company in Memphis, Tennessee. My boss was a religious man, and he seemed to be fairly well-versed in Scripture. In fact, when a religious discussion came up, he would quickly insert his opinion. He loved to throw out Bible verses to prove people wrong.
A couple of problems made him less than convincing, however: he had a terrible attitude about almost everything, and he cussed like the proverbial sailor.
Guess how many people he converted to his views on baptism?
James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” He then answers his own question: He’s the one who lives a good life, a humble life.
Maybe our lesson here is to be careful how we use our understanding. Maybe we know a lot about the Bible, but if we’re proud we don’t really know it.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew the Bible from cover to cover, but not really. They missed its main point.
That’s something we need to be careful about as well. We’re rapidly becoming a post-Christian nation, and most folks out there don’t really care how many verses we can quote. They don’t care how well we speak churchy language.
What they do care about–what they notice–is if we’re living a “good life.” If anything in us convinces them to pursue faith, it’ll be the good fruit that God is producing in us.