By Hoyt Houchen
Question: What is meant by the statement in Matthew 11: 19, “But wisdom is justified of her children “?
Reply: The wording of the statement in the question is from the King James Version. The American Standard Version reads: “And wisdom is justified by her works.”
The context of the verse is seen in the preceding statements (w. 18, 19). “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a demon. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” That generation was not pleased with John nor Jesus. They refused to accept either. They were like “children sitting in the marketplaces, who call unto their fellows and say, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not mourn” (vv. 16, 17). Compared to children, they were dissatisfied with each other and the games they were playing. It was like some wanting to play one game, and others another game. The point is: nothing could please them. Interestingly, this is the only place in the Bible where games of children are described. John the Baptist lived a rugged life, eating simple food (locusts and wild honey) and wearing simple clothing (a raiment of
camel’s hair and a leather girdle about his loins, Matt. 3:4). They accused him of having a demon. Jesus, in contrast, came eating and drinking – living as others in this respect, and they accused Him of being “a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” So, they were not satisfied with Him either. Of course, they falsely accused Jesus. He was neither gluttonous (given to excessive love of food) nor was He a winebibber (given to much wine). And, while Jesus was “a friend of publicans and sinners,” He was a friend to everyone. However, this does not mean that He condoned or encouraged sin. He loved sinners but hated sin. The generation to whom Jesus addressed His words could not be pleased. They rejected both John and Jesus, refusing to submit to the message of God being taught through them. This is the setting for the statement: “But wisdom is justified of her children” (KJV).
Wisdom is best seen in the fruit that she bears. A tree is known by its fruit. True wisdom was rejected by the people in general, but it was justified (shown to be right) in the works and effects of both John and Jesus. In Luke’s account we have the words: “And wisdom is justified of all her children” (Lk. 7:35). In contrast to those who reject God, children of wisdom are those who accept God’s words. They justify God by appreciating His teaching, His wisdom, and submitting to it. This is illustrated in Luke 7:29: “And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.” It should be easy to see, then, that “children” who justify true wisdom, the wisdom of God, are those ho accept God’s teaching, regarding it to be right.
Men today who are teaching God’s word may differ in disposition, style, eating habits, modes of dress etc.; but wisdom is justified (regarded to be right) by those who respond in faithful obedience to it.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, p. 582
October 6, 1983