“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.” James 3:13-15
When this passage was penned, James was confronting the early Christians on their motives for the wisdom they proclaimed. Much like today’s culture, the philosophical thinkers of the time believed that any wisdom was good and profitable, but James draws a sharp contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. (James 1:5-17; 3:1; 5:7-11).
James reveals that God’s wisdom is not easy to follow and the world’s wisdom is very tempting.
The world’s wisdom is filled with bitterness, envy and selfish ambitions, and although we might be tempted to “be false to the truth”, we should remember that such wisdom has a high price in eternity. The world’s wisdom encourages us to seek power and prestige for ourselves and forsake the truth of God, causing broken relationships and dysfunctional thinking. (Proverbs 11:18; Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
Zeal or ambition can be a good thing, but selfish ambition and envy mourns for what we do not have and connives to get it. It moves us away from God’s wisdom into sin, the world’s waywardness. This poisons the Holy Spirit’s work in us, and lets our passions go astray. God’s wisdom is more difficult to follow than our selfish ambition, but keeps us away from “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom and subsequent consequences.
Self-seeking envy and the world’s earthly, unspiritual and demonic wisdom creates strife and brings disharmony to our lives. It gains us nothing of eternal value, but only pushes us further from God by distorting the truth, as James warned us.
When we chase the world’s wisdom, our knowledge reflects evil; it is foolishness and opposes God’s love for us.
James used strong language, and called wisdom that is not of God “demonic”. Demons formerly had access to God and are much older than we are, they have far more wisdom than any human could ever conceive. However, by not yielding to God, the demons’ wisdom has no benefit, it is only used to stir up their ungodly values – to discourage, manipulate and destroy.
All wisdom is not rooted in truth, and we need to be aware of the devil’s lies and manipulations, keeping our eyes on God and asking him for real wisdom. Today let’s ask God to reveal where we have let jealousy, selfish ambition and false wisdom invade our minds, and ask him to replace those temptations with his wisdom instead.
“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 3:17-19
Read Part 1 here.