Good morning Summit Family!
James has been encouraging his readers to consider the wisdom they possess and its origin. Is it an earthly wisdom or is it a heavenly wisdom? He has declared that whatever kind of wisdom we have will be demonstrated in the kind of life we live. He also states that if we are wise and understanding, we will show it by our good life, the “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” His proposition: a trait of wise people is that they will be humble as opposed to being arrogant and they will promote good deeds.
Wise “brothers and sisters” are humble before the Lord because they understand the position they have in their relationship with the Lord and they understand true wisdom comes from God. Wisdom tells them they are saved by HIS grace, not by anything they have done. They understand they have not earned their salvation, but it was purchased through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
They have also learned that “we are all equal at the foot of the cross.” No one is more valuable to God than anyone else. Jesus made a bold statement about John the Baptist: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28) That should put our positions with both God and our fellow brothers and sisters in perspective.
James continues with his “sermon”: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (3:14-16)
The Greek word James used, which is translated into “selfish ambition,” implies an INTENSE focus on one’s own interest at the detriment of caring for others. He goes so far as to propose there is a “wisdom” associated with such an approach to life. Such people are cunning. They are clever and skillful at being manipulative, devious, Machiavellian, and duplicitous because all of their focus is on themselves.
However, he also includes the impact of having that kind of wisdom. First, look at how it is demonstrated. In contrast to the person who lives a “good life,” an attractive and lovely life, these individuals demonstrate bitter envy and selfish ambition as they live their lives. That would seem to be the very opposite of being humble. Think of the arrogance Satan demonstrated when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
Since this letter has been addressed to James’ “brothers and sisters,” it is clear James is suggesting that as believers, we can still be motivated by an earthly wisdom as opposed to a heavenly one. Unfortunately, it is possible that even the body of Christ can be invaded by those whose bitter envies and selfish ambitions are their primary focuses. While they may seem “wise,” they are demonstrating a wisdom that is in stark contrast to that which comes from heaven.
James defines it as a wisdom that is unspiritual and demonic. Imagine for just a moment how being unspiritual and demonic will be manifested. It will result in the individual promoting their own interest without respect to others. One can easily conclude such actions/attitudes would result in division, fights and quarrels (which James has already addressed) and other unspiritual demonstrations. It should be kept in mind that when something is defined as being “unspiritual” there is an absence of the presence of the Spirit. It is a temporal approach.
James then defines it as being “demonic.” That means it is “anti-God” and “pro-Satan.” James is reminding them of the conditions that exists within our own hearts when we follow the wisdom of this world. Such wisdom comes from the “prince of this world,” Satan. Listen to what Paul said: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Satan), the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) Growing to the point of having perfect/complete faith seems to suggest that it would also result in our being avoiding developing an earthly wisdom.
James concludes his “definition” of an earthly wisdom by sharing that when we are immersed in our own selfish ambitions and envy the result is “disorder and every evil practice.” One can only speculate the kind of disorder and evil practices that will be generated when the only wisdom we have is an earthly wisdom. James submits boldly that it will be divisive (disorderly) and ungodly!!!
Everyone wants to be wise. We have two options in our search for wisdom – the world or the Lord. We will all make a choice. What will yours be?
Have a great day!