Because we are all listeners we are all walking in some form of wisdom. We are either walking in the wisdom that comes from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or we are walking in the wisdom that comes from the Tree of Life. How can we discern which wisdom we are walking in?
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Insights from James
Fortunately for us, James helps us out.
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
Two kinds of wisdom flowing from two different sources. Each wisdom has its own peculiar manifestations leading to very different results. In this post I will focus on ungodly wisdom.
Manifestations of Ungodly Wisdom
It must be known that ungodly wisdom is completely self-focused. It always seeks to promote itself to the exclusion of God and everyone else. Understanding this truth will help us to understand its manifestations, the first of which is bitter jealousy. By definition, bitter jealousy is extreme agitation at the blessings bestowed on others. Instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15), it is irritated by the fact that someone else received a benefit that it did not. It may go so far as to try and steal the joy of the one who was benefited by speaking negatively about the benefit, or by trying to exalt its own blessing in order to minimize the blessing of another. Anything to keep itself in the limelight.
Selfish ambition is the second manifestation of ungodly wisdom that James calls attention to. This is the inordinate desire for recognition and/or position. It will stoop to any means necessary to achieve its objective. The word faction (a party spirit, especially when marked by dissension) is also associated with the Greek word used here. In other words, this form of wisdom will seek to gather those around it who will be enamoured with it and constantly make it the centre of attention.
The Source of Ungodly Wisdom
James makes it very clear where this kind of wisdom comes from.
It does not come down from above. This wisdom does not originate with God no matter how reasonable it may sound.
It is earthly. This wisdom finds its origin in the world system which the apostle John describes in 1st John 2:15 – 16. Even a cursory glance at John’s description of the world shows that it is completely focused on self and its own aggrandizement.
It is unspiritual. This wisdom does not originate from the Spirit of God. It rather arises out of the base nature of man’s flesh. Paul tells us that the mind set on the flesh is completely contrary to God (Romans 8:7).
It is demonic. The devil always reigns in the realm of the world and the flesh (Ephesians 2:1 – 2). He is ultimately the inspiration behind this worldly wisdom.
The Results of Ungodly Wisdom
James sights two results of walking in the wisdom that comes from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first is disorder. Chaos always results from ungodly wisdom running unchecked in a person’s life, family, church, job, etc. Just read through Romans 1:18 – 32 and see the mess that comes with walking in a wisdom that leaves God out of the picture.
James also says that walking in ungodly wisdom will result in every vile thing being manifested. The word vile literally means (in the Greek) worthless or good for nothing. When this wisdom is present we will find posturing, gossip, slander, quarrelling, assumptions, misrepresentation, manipulation (which is a form of witchcraft), factions, and the like. Nothing good comes from this wisdom in the long run.
Don’t Be False to the Truth
James admonishes us to not boast and be false with the truth if we are operating in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. If these things are the motivating factors in our lives, we are lying if we say we are hearing the Lord and walking in His wisdom. John echoes this same thought in 1st John 1:5 – 6.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
If this is the wisdom that is manifesting in our lives, we can be certain that it DOES NOT come from living in the Reign.
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”