Whose Wisdom? (James 3:13-18)

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13–18, ESV)

These verses pit a matchup of two types of wisdom: Earthly and Heavenly.

The first one comes from us — it has to do with our own reasoning and way of figuring things out. In fact it not simply neutral or “not the best way of doing things.” The passage says that earthly wisdom is unspiritual and demonic. It doesn’t get much worse than that! But why does earthly wisdom get such a bad rap? Because it involves my way of doing things, not God’s. And when I’m doing things my way all the time, James tells me it will produce jealousy and selfish ambition. That’s because if I’m doing things my way and people don’t like it, then I will naturally be at odds with them.

The second type of wisdom is from God and seems to fair much better on the scale of desirability. Why? Because it is:

  • Pure
  • Gentle
  • Open to reason
  • Full of mercy and good fruits
  • Impartial
  • Sincere

It leads to a “harvest of righteousness”

Even if I don’t understand the full implications of each of those words or phrases, they certainly sound much better than “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.” How do I get this wisdom? Go back to chapter 1:5-8 and be reminded this wisdom comes from God and he loves to dish it out generously.

So go ahead. Ask him. It’s far better than the alternative!


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