Two kinds of Wisdom (James 3:13-18)

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Do you call a friend, do you pray, do you wing it? The answer may depend on the situation. Whatever you do, you want to make the right decision; you want to make a wise decision. How do you make a wise decision? That answer depends on what kind of wisdom you use to make your decision.

Proverbs 4:7 TLV “Wisdom is supreme—acquire wisdom! With all your acquisitions, get understanding.” Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines wisdom as “The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice. If wisdom is to be considered as a faculty of the mind, it is the faculty of discerning or judging what is most just, proper, and useful, and if it is to be considered as an acquirement, it is the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness. Wisdom in the first sense, or practical wisdom, is nearly synonymous with discretion.”

How do we know the correct use or exercise of knowledge? Scripture tells us, more specifically, James gives us the differences between heavenly and demonic wisdom. Webster’s tells us that wisdom is the ability to discern or judge properly. With that in mind, let us continue gleaning from the practical wisdom found in the book of James.

James 3:13-18 TLV “Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct let him show his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in shalom by those who make shalom.”

Wisdom is not seen in the number of degrees one has, nor is it seen in domineering management. Our conduct proves our wisdom. Meekness is strength, not weakness. As Christians, we are not to define wisdom in the same way the world does. That is why I use the 1828 dictionary. Under the definitions, it gives you Scriptural examples and applications. Our wisdom should come from above, not this world.

James says if you have bitter envy or if you are self-seeking that you are not operating in heavenly wisdom. That wisdom, he says, is earthly, sensual, and demonic. Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 tell us that, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Some would say, it’s okay to step on people on your way up the corporate ladder, that white lies to gain an advantage are understandable. This is not wisdom from above; this is self-seeking wisdom.

Envy and self-seeking produce confusion, verse sixteen tells us. Evil lives in the state of envy and self-seeking, and that is not where we want to be as believers. The wisdom from the earth is sensual and demonic. The Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that to have that kind of wisdom is to be lead by an animalistic mind and to live and make decisions springing from corrupt desires and affections.

Have you ever prayed for a promotion or a particular blessing in your life, yet you didn’t receive it? James 4:2-3 “You crave and have not. You murder and you envy, yet you cannot get it. You fight and you wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives so you may spend it on your passions.” Sometimes, we don’t get answers because we ask with the wrong motives. We aren’t asking with God’s glory in mind or for the benefit of others; we are asking selfishly. Those are prayers God will not answer. That is contrary to heavenly wisdom. God will often protect us from ourselves, He sees things we can’t, and He knows how our selfish motives can negatively impact us in the future. Yet, if we choose not to take His correction, He may let us have what we want and go through the hardship so that we will find our way back to true wisdom.

True wisdom, the wisdom from above, is described in verses seventeen and eighteen. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Pure wisdom will not receive the rebuke of James 4:2-3. Pure wisdom is not defiled, nor is it is not contaminated. It is peaceful and harmonious in relationships. The wisdom from above will lead you to preserve a friendship, not push your friend in front of the bus to get the promotion. True wisdom values friendship over filthy lucre. True wisdom values meekness and fairness. It is willing to yield; act rightly, and perform a promise. True wisdom is full of mercy, and it contains no partiality and no hypocrisy.

Partiality and hypocrisy have no place in the life of a Christian. James dealt with the sin of partiality in chapter two, but what about hypocrisy? Vine’s defines hypocrisy as play-acting. Being one way to someone’s face, yet speaking ill of them behind their back. None of these things are the fruit of righteousness that we are to walk in.

“Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Are you acting righteously or self-serving? Are you sowing peace, or are you sowing discord for your benefit, to the destruction of others? Are you gentle, or do you respond in anger? These questions show us the difference between heavenly wisdom and demonic wisdom.

What wisdom are you operating in? Would it be defined as bitter envy? Do you find yourself always wanting what someone else has, never being content with the blessing you have? 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The wisdom from above closely resembles the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Ruach is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control—against such things there is no law.” (TLV).

Take a moment to examine your life. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle and write the following list downward; bitter envy, self-seeking, confusion, sensual, corrupt desires, partiality, and hypocrisy on one side. On the other side, write; pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, and good fruits. Now think of different situations and relationships in your life and classify them in the list. What areas do you need to make changes in how you are handling them? Are there any relationships that you are not walking rightly? Take time to pray both before and after your response. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you walk in heavenly wisdom. Rehearse the fruit of the Spirit over in your mind this next week, and at the bottom of your list, write down three steps you can take to start walking in heavenly wisdom.

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