James 018 – Two Kinds of Wisdom

James 018 – Two Kinds of Wisdom
James 3:13-16 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 3, 2021 • James


James 018 — Two Kinds of Wisdom — James 3:13-16

Dr. Andy Woods, Sr. Pastor

Sugarland Bible Church

President —Chafer Theological Seminary

James 3:13, and I am going to call this one, ‘Two Kinds of Wisdom.’ As you know, we are continuing our verse-by-verse study through the book of James.  James, as you know is a book about practical righteousness, Christian living.  We already have a positional righteousness that is pleasing to the Lord because we are in Him, but how do we allow our practice to catch up with our position?

The first half of the book, in fact, go back to James 1:3, “…knowing that the testing of your faith…” Because the book starts that way, I would say that the whole point of the first half of the book which goes from James 1:1 – 3:12, is about faith in the Christian.  There it is obviously dealing with faith that already exists in the believer because it is being tested.  We can’t test something that we don’t have, so the first half of the book is about allowing our faith that we already have in Christ to develop to the point where we are actually trusting God through the difficulties of life.  I am bringing this up because we are at a point in the book in James 3:13-18 where there will be a big transition, so it is hard to appreciate this transition unless you can see the ground that we have already covered.

To reiterate, the first half of the book is about trusting God through the emergencies of life, and that is how to develop a practical righteousness that is pleasing to God.  What does that mean?

James 1:2-18, it is adopting God’s perspective on suffering (See slide on James 1:2-18).  So, when we suffer, not if we suffer, James tells us to rejoice in the midst of trials, and he explains why.  When you get to 1:19-27, the focus is now on obedience (See slide on Faith Obeys God).  What does obedience look like?  It is being slow to speech and anger.  James didn’t spend much time on our freeways.  The need to take in God’s Word and obey it, and the need to practice what James calls true piety or true religion, which is not a type of Christianity that means to sit, soak and sour; it meets practical needs in the lives of people such as widows and orphans in their distress.

Then once we moved into James 2:1-13, James reacts against the issue of showing favoritism in the assembly, giving people special treatment based on their perceived wealth.  James says, that when we do something like that, particularly in a church, it is completely contrary to God’s character and purposes.

Then in 2:14-26  (see slide on Faith Manifesting Works) we spent a lot of time on allowing our faith to manifest itself in good works so that our faith doesn’t come into existence for the first time but our faith becomes useful.  He gave five illustrations of what productive faith looks like.

From there, we spent at least two weeks on this.  He moves right into, saying, ‘By the way, while I am talking about good works, here is the ultimate good work you can do as a Christian.  In fact, if you can do this good work, there is no higher work to do, to control the tongue.’  That is in James 3:1-12.  It is there that he talked about the tongue’s wicked influence and its potential for evil.

If you can appreciate the ground that we have covered so far, then you can appreciate the transition that is happening.  Now James moves away from faith, continuing to trust God in the midst of life’s difficulties ,and he moves into the subject of wisdom.  The dominant theme of the first half of the book is faith, in the second half of the book, James 3:13-end of chapter 5, is wisdom.  What he does is to define wisdom.  (See slide on Structure).  What is wisdom?  He will do that in 3:13-18, which we will try to cover tonight.  Once we understand what wisdom is, then he will apply it to all areas of life:

  • Spirituality
  • Commerce
  • Use of wealth
  • Waiting for the Lord’s return
  • Prayer
  • Restoration of the erring brother

We can’t apply what we don’t know though, so he starts off by defining wisdom.  If the second part of the book is about wisdom, then what exactly is wisdom?  He is going define it for us in 3:13-18.  Our outline has three parts to it (See slide on Wisdom):

  1. Wisdom is demonstrated by her actions (3:13). From there, James compares and contrasts two kinds of wisdom: wisdom from above versus wisdom from below.  The wisdom from below, human, or sometimes called earthly wisdom, is in 3:14-16 and that isn’t the kind of wisdom we are to walk by.  We are to walk by heavenly wisdom, and he defines that in 3:17-18).  By the time you walk away from this, you have a definition of wisdom, what wisdom is and what it is not.  Just because something masquerades as wisdom doesn’t mean that it is God’s wisdom.

Let’s take a look at wisdom defined in 3:13. What is wisdom?  James wants to communicate the point and you would expect him to do this in a book about Christian living.  Wisdom, the Greek word is ‘sophia,’ which is a beautiful name to give to someone.  In the Hebrew it is ‘chokmâh.’  Wisdom is a lot more than the accumulation of data.  The accumulation of data and knowing your stuff, facts, figures, etc…I know people who know everything about the book of Judges, and when this judge came into existence, how long this one judged, it is amazing the detailed knowledge you can acquire from the Bible, but that is not wisdom.  It is good to know all of that, but it doesn’t become wisdom until it is applied, that is what ‘chokmâh’, Old Testament concept of wisdom is; that is what ‘sophia‘, the Greek concept of wisdom is about.

James says in 3:13 that wisdom is demonstrated by her actions.  You can tell a wise person versus an unwise person according to how they act, not according to what they say or whether they can win a Bible trivia contest.  Notice what he says in 3:13, “Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

 James is saying here that wisdom is always determined and based on what you do; knowledge is determined and based on what you know.  Wisdom is determined based on your ability and willingness to take knowledge and apply it to everyday life.

Knowledge is great; you can’t have wisdom without knowledge, or you won’t know what to apply, but knowledge was never designed by God to be the last step.  There is a mistake made in Bible-teaching environments, like our own here at Sugarland Bible Church, where we put a huge emphasis on Bible teaching.  And because we place such an emphasis on Bible teaching, people think, ‘If I learn all of this, then I’m okay with God.’  That isn’t true, because God never gave knowledge as the last step; He gave it as the first step.  The last step is wisdom.  Wisdom doesn’t become ‘chokmâh’ or ‘sophia‘ until it is applied to daily life.

One of my friends, and now that we are going to do the Chafer Conference, and I bring him up because I will see him there, which will be next week, Bruce Baker, has a wonderful definition of spiritual maturity, and I have heard him talk about this.  He says that spiritual maturity is the amount of time you have spent learning God’s truth and the time you have spent obeying it.  That is a mature person.  Maturity is not just data, information, etc, it is the amount of hours that have been logged in into actually obeying and applying it.  That is how you determine if someone is wise or spiritually mature or immature.  That is what James is getting at here in 3:13: “Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

You don’t have to get far into the Bible to see that this is what God wants of us.  We saw earlier in the study in James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  Why would people be deceived?  Because they think that because they are hearing (the Word of God), they are maturing.  To that, James says, ‘No, you are maturing when you are hearing and doing.’ 

Jesus, in the upper room, said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” 

(John 13:17).  Jesus never says that you are blessed if you know these things.  Knowing these things is the first step, but doing them is where the blessing comes.

God sent in Joshua to conquer the land of Canaan and to Joshua, God said, ‘This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then… (in other words, ‘then’ follows the condition that is met.  What is the condition that is met?  Doing)… then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”  (‘So, meditate on the word, Joshua, do that day and night, but you must understand that the success and blessing and prosperity that I want to give you won’t happen until you do these things.)’  (Joshua 1:8)

That is basically what wisdom is — it is always vindicated by her actions.  We are in the process at this church right now of selecting deacons and elders, and the very first deacons that you find in the whole Bible are in Acts 6, and they were basically raised up by God to help the widows in the daily distribution of food so that the apostles could keep their attention focused on the Word and in  prayer.  So, if the apostles had gotten sidetracked into the food distribution task, then they would have been distracted form their purpose which was the Word and prayer.  Thus, God raised up another office in the Church very early on in church history called the deacons, and he lays down right then and there the qualifications for deacons.  “3Therefore, brethren, select… (in other words, for deacons)… from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, (there is our word, wisdom, ‘’sophia‘) whom we may put in charge of this task.”  The people who qualify as deacons here are those who don’t just have wisdom but are full of wisdom, and that is what you look for in selecting deacons for any church.  You look for people who are practitioners of the Bible that they know.  I would rather have someone serving alongside of me in a church that may not know as much as the next guy but is faithful to obey what he does know. In other words, I would rather serve with someone who maybe only knows this much (gesture implying a small amount) but who lives it, than with someone who knows this much (gesturing a huge amount) and who only lives a fraction of what he knows.  Because the latter is not a wise person; they’re knowledgeable, but they don’t put into practice what they know.

So, there really are a lot of people who are knowledgeable but unwise, and here, James is not getting at the subject of knowledge.  Knowledge is great but as I said before, it is never designed to be a last step, rather a first step.

Notice this expression, “the gentleness of wisdom.”  Divine wisdom, by its nature, is gentle.  It isn’t abrasive, self-serving.  The wises person in the room isn’t necessarily the loudest person.  We have just come off of…, and I voted for Donald Trump, but we are coming off of the Trump era, where there is just a lot of screaming and yelling.  People think that whoever screams the loudest and who gets the most attention and the most hits on their YouTube channel or their Facebook page, or whoever attracts the most advertising revenue or the most popular reality television show — there is a mindset in this culture that indicates that those who are getting the most attention must be right.

Trump is what came to my mind, I’m not trying to make a political statement, but the culture thinks that way.  You will notice what it says in the Bible is that it is “the gentleness of wisdom.”   People with divine wisdom aren’t usually the loudest or scream the loudest; aren’t the most vociferous. They aren’t the kind of people who have to constantly attract attention to themselves; they’re just gentle people.  That is what you look for in divine wisdom.  As we walk in divine wisdom, that is the kind of people we want to be.

Wisdom in 3:13 is demonstrated always not by her thoughts or what she knows by her behavior, her actions.  Now with that in mind, James identifies two kinds of wisdom.  First is the kind of wisdom to avoid in 3:14-16, and second, is the wisdom to embrace in 3:17-18.  You will notice that not all wisdom is of God.  I like what the King James Version says in 1 Timothy 6:20, and when I say that I like it, I mean I like how it translates the Greek.  I am not saying that verse as if my opinion about whether or not I like the verse matters.  1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science (if this had been written in the 21st century, it might say, ‘Don’t spend too much time on Twitter arguing with people’)… avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions (I like this translation here)… “of science falsely so called:”  Science means knowledge and he talks here about science that is a false science.  In other words, you can get into philosophical discussions about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and you get mad at someone, and they zap you, and you want to zap them back, and you get into all of this contention, etc.  That is the type of thing that Timothy is told to avoid because there is a science out there that is false.  There is a knowledge that doesn’t come from God.  That is what James is describing in 3:14-16; he is talking about wisdom that is not of the Lord.  So, if it isn’t of the Lord, then where does it come from?  Ultimately, it comes from satan, so how do you distinguish between the true science, or knowledge and the true wisdom versus the false wisdom?  He gives a description of the false wisdom to avoid in 3:14-16, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”  Here is the false wisdom to be rejected.  This is the science falsely called. 

Most people believe that in 3:14-16, and in 3:17,18, that he is using six proverbs.  He isn’t saying Proverbs 6:34 and putting it in quotes, but he is alluding to these six proverbs (See slide on Human or Earthly Wisdom 3:14-16).  He doesn’t have to put it in quotes because he is writing to a Jewish audience who already understood the book of Proverbs.  The book of Proverbs is pithy statements, sayings and observations concerning how life works from God’s point of view.  These are things that we should put into practice.

The epistle of James has been called the Proverbs of the New Testament.  The proverbs, most of them written by Solomon, were written 1,000 years before the time of Christ.  So, he is rehearsing proverbs here.  As you read through this, you may think that 3:14-16 sounds like the works of the flesh, and that 3:17-18 sound like the fruit of the Spirit.  You may think that James is making reference to Mark 7:20-23, where Mark recording the words of Christ, is recording the works of the flesh.  “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  2AAll these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’”

This is a classic statement regarding the works of the flesh, the ways the sin nature manifests itself.  You read through this and think that he is referring to what Mark recorded concerning the works of the flesh.  The contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is developed by the apostle Paul in the book of Galatians 5:19-23, 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

So, there is a classic contrast between the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, how the sin nature manifests itself versus what the Spirit-filled life looks like, called the fruit of the Spirit.  So many think that James is referring to the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.  I am telling you that James could not be referring to those passages because James is the first New Testament book.  Thus, the gospel of Mark had not yet been written, maybe James, because he was the half-brother of Christ, was hanging around when Jesus said that in Mark 7 but he isn’t referring to Mark because Mark’s written gospel doesn’t exist yet.  Nor is he referring to the things that Paul said concerning the fruit of the Spirit because the apostle Paul had not yet written the book of Galatians.  Paul would not write the book of Galatians until AD 49 (See slide on Order of Paul’s Letters).  James is writing in AD 44-47.  By the time that James writes, Paul had probably been converted, but he had not written anything, and the gospel of Mark didn’t exist yet.  I think that it is doubtful that the gospel of Matthew existed at that time, so when James is rehearsing this information, he isn’t referring to anything in the New Testament because the New Testament had not yet been recorded.  He is going back to what everyone knew, the Old Testament.  They didn’t call it the New Testament, they called it the Hebrew Bible.

So James is building his case about wisdom from above and wisdom from below from the book of Proverbs to his Jewish audience who already knew the book of Proverbs, backwards and forwards, most likely.  As we go through these pieces of information concerning the wisdom from below, I am going to anchor it in a particular proverb.  I think that this is probably the proverb he is referring to, I could be wrong; maybe you have a different or better one that is on point, but at least you will get the flavor for what James is speaking of here in addressing how to recognize wisdom from below.  3:14-16

You have bitter jealousy and that is probably citation form Proverbs 6:34, “For jealousy enrages a man, And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.”  Jealousy of someone doesn’t allow you to think in your right mind; you aren’t thinking logically or rationally, all you can see is that they have something you don’t have but that you want.  Jealousy is the twin sister of envy.  I think envy is probably a stronger form of jealousy, but we all know what jealousy is, and James says that if you are operating in jealousy, you aren’t operating in divine wisdom.  As you become aware of wisdom from above versus wisdom from below, you can almost walk into any situation:  a workplace, a family situation, even a church, and you can just pick up right away what is in domination in that place.  Wisdom from above or wisdom from below?  If there is jealousy that is controlling or ruling the day, it isn’t of God.

  1. Selfish ambition — how do you recognize wisdom from below? Selfish ambition.  Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”  When I think of selfish ambition, I can’t help but think of someone later on in New Testament history named Diotrephes, and it says in 3 John 9 about this man, Diotrephes, who was an ecclesiastical leader in God’s church, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, (actually, Diotrephes means ‘nourished by Zeus,’ interestingly enough),… who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.”   So, John says that these churches won’t respond to apostolic teaching, the leaders won’t, because Diotrephes wants to be preeminent; he doesn’t want the apostles to be preeminent.  You do get that in the church world, I’m sad to say.  There are people who just live for the limelight and crave it.  They find places where they can gravitate towards to get that psychological and sinful need met.  If they can’t get it met at Church A, they will go down the street to Church B.  They love the sound of their own voice; to see their name in the headlines, and it is a sad state of affairs to have that type of thing going on in the church.  It was going on in the church even in the time of apostles to the point where this man, Diotrephes, was trying to eclipse apostolic authority.  So, that is another way to recognize wisdom from below.
  2. In James 3:14, he mentions arrogance,“14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. The proverb I would connect with that statement is Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.”  So, it is just people who constantly operate out of a place of self; pride; not seeking God’s glory or the benefit of their fellow man but seeking their own.  I wish we had time to look at all those verses (See slide on Scripture and Pride).   Proverbs 16:18; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17; 1 Timothy 3:6; Acts 12:21-23; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 5:5.   This is just a short list I came up about the Scripture and Pride and how if someone moves into pride, they’re on a collision course with God.  Satan himself is like that per Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.  Proverbs 16:18 at the top of the list.  By the way, don’t put a new believer into a position of authority in the church for this reason per 1 Timothy 3:6.  Herod, like the people in Acts 12 saying the voice of a God and not man.  He was struck dead on the spot.  Paul himself struggled with pride having been taken into the third heaven, he had to be given a thorn in the flesh and 1 Peter 5:5 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Nebuchadnezzar is who is being represented in that slide with the list of scriptures and pride, is being cut down by the angel.  Remember that story.  He had a bad case of the “I’s” and he said, ‘Is this not Babylon the Great that I myself have made by the might of my own hand?’  No sooner were those words out of his mouth than he was turned into an animal for seven years.  God, out of mercy, restored him to his position when he had learned his lesson.  By the time you are out of Daniel 4, you can see that Nebuchadnezzar had gone through a major attitude adjustment.  He wasn’t magnifying himself anymore at the end of Daniel 4, he was magnifying God.

I put this together — the Hall of the Humbled (See slide of Hall of the Humbled).  Satan; Uzziah (who was lifted up with pride in 2 Chronicles 26:16) and who usurped the job that the priest is supposed to do, was smote with leprosy from head to toe for the rest of his life.  Herod, who liked the sound of his own voice, and then Paul the apostle himself who struggled with pride and that is why God gave him the thorn in the flesh — to keep him useable, humble and dependent upon the Lord.  Had God not given Paul that thorn in the flesh, the Paul that we know who wrote a third of the New Testament epistles, or 2/3 of them, whatever it is, I don’t think we would ever have known that man; he would have been so egotistical and inflated with himself because he was caught into the third heaven and heard things that a man is not fit to hear.  Because of that experience, God had to give him a corresponding thorn in the flesh to keep him in a place of humility and useability.  Thus, we have his three missionary journeys, his journey to Rome and his 13 New Testament epistles, none of which we would have without that thorn in his flesh.  It is a different way to look at suffering, isn’t it?  Sometimes suffering is your best friend because it keeps your ego in check, and if your ego is in check, then God can keep using you because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

There are a lot of sins that God puts up with for a while, in a lot of us.  If I’m reading my Bible right, I don’t see Him putting up with pride in people for very long, particularly in His children.  It seems to me that God keeps that one on a pretty short leash, but that is just my own observation, for what it is worth.

Then you also recognize wisdom from below because it is earthly and natural, but if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, notice where selfish ambition comes from — the heart.  Didn’t satan say, “…in his heart” per Isaiah 14:12-15, ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’  It starts in the heart and that is why the book of says to ‘guard your heart with all diligence for from it spring the issues of life.’

James 3:14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.’”  When you are walking in this, you can’t be walking in the truth of God’s Word, so you are opposed to the truth, like Diotrephes was, who resisted apostolic authority. “15 This wisdom if not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.” (So here is something else to recognize in terms of wisdom from below is that it is earthly and natural, not of God.  It doesn’t come from heaven; it comes from the natural realm, the earth.  The proverb I will use for that one is Proverbs 14:12 , “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”  That is earthly or natural wisdom; it seems right to us; it looks right to us, but we forget that our intellect is corrupted by sin, and we aren’t in a position to analyze things correctly often without the input of God’s Word.

 I think that Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, is describing this kind of earthly or natural wisdom, he calls it, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  So, he says that repeatedly in his book, he keeps talking about “under the sun,” sun obviously spelled ‘sun’ not ‘son.’  He is talking about wisdom that doesn’t have the vantage point of heaven.  It is natural; what you can see; the way the world works but without God’s influence, so he continues to call it ‘under the sun.’  That is what the book of Ecclesiastes — the meanderings of an old man who spent the final third of his life living in total rebellion against God.  All you have to do is to read 1 Kings 11 to see that Solomon did not end well.  I think he is still in heaven, but he was not walking with God at the end of his life.  He is describing life from that vantage point, and it isn’t until the end of the book that he wakes up and says, ‘What we ought to be doing is valuing and honoring God and His Word,’ but for most of the book, he isn’t doing that, he is describing what he was doing in the final third of his life and describes it as ‘under the sun,’ which means that he was operating from a wisdom perspective that had nothing to do with the Bible or with heaven.  It cut out the heavenly point of view.

So, that is what wisdom from below is like:  earthly and natural.  No God, no Scripture, no Holy Spirit, just ‘the way I want to live’ and this is the way the world works.  That is the type of wisdom that we are to reject.  Notice in James 3:15 it is called ‘demonic.’  Ultimately, it comes from satan.  This is not the first time in the book of James that we have run into satan.  In James 3:6, we studied a couple of weeks, that the tongue itself can be set on fire by hell.  Satan can influence the tongue in the life of the Christian, so it is no great surprise that he would mention demons or satan again in the same chapter when describing wisdom from below.  The proverb that I think he is alluding to here is Proverb 27:20, “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.”  Abaddon is another word for satan, I think, or at least a high ranking demon in Revelation 9 — it means destroyer.  Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.”  So, the more that we move in the direction of human or earthly wisdom, the emptier our lives are.  Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, calls it ‘chasing after the wind.’  There is that song, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’   When you hear those lyrics, think of the book of Ecclesiastes; of earthly wisdom that ultimately comes from satan that never satisfies.   You just do what you think is right; ‘I’ll pursue pleasure, that will fulfill me.’  That ends up empty because you have to go into more bizarre forms of pleasure to get to the next high.  ‘I will go into materialism; that will make me happy and fulfill me.’  The problem is that they’ve asked everyone on every socioeconomic part of the ladder how much more money they would need to be happy.  What everyone said, from the ultra-rich to the upper middle class, to the middle class to the lower middle class to the poor, everyone quoted a figure about 10% more than they currently had.  They all said, ‘If I just had 10% more than I had today, then I would be happy.’   So that shows you that the pursuit of money and possessions doesn’t satisfy either. I think that is what Proverbs 27:20 is saying, “Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.”

Of course, think of Matthew 16:23 where Jesus said to Peter, “…Get behind Me, satan.”  Peter thought he had things figured out.  Jesus said, ‘I have to go to the cross and die,’ and Peter started trying to talk Jesus out of it.  To Peter, it seemed right to say that, but he was obviously operating in satanic wisdom without even knowing it.

Ephesians 4:26-27, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  So, the type of wisdom from below is ultimately devilish, and the last thing here is that it is contentious; it breeds disorder.  God is a God of order.  Everything that God does has an order to it.  Look at God’s design for marriage — there is an order to it; look at His design for family — there is an order to it.  God’s design for the Church — there’s an order to it.  God’s design in nature — there is an obvious order to it.  The wisdom from below is all about disorder.  See the disorder in our culture where we can’t even figure out what man and woman mean anymore.  We have people in government when they close in prayer, saying “Amen and Awoman.”  What are they talking about?  ‘Amen’ is a Greek word, first of all.  ‘Awoman’ is not a Greek word.  But we don’t want to offend anyone because we are into this disorder mentality where even sexuality itself gets confused.

James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist (we have already talked about jealousy and selfish ambition), there is disorder and every evil thing.”  I believe that he is referring here to Proverbs 11:29, “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.”  Who is the foolish?  One who will bring disunity and disharmony in his very own home.  Proverbs 22:10 says, “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out.  Even strife and dishonor will cease.”   When I used to be a substitute teacher, believe it or not, in a prior life, it was a terrible job, by the way.  We really need to pray for those people who do that.  I would go into a class and the kids don’t have their regular teacher so they’re already wanting to get away with a bunch of stuff, and my job was to exercise dominion over them.  Basically, there are maybe two or three kids that were causing the problem, and I found out real quickly, and I isolated them.  Isn’t it interesting that when they are isolated everything calmed down.

 So, there are those who will come into situations and cause strife and quarreling, but if you drive out the scoffer, it all ceases per Proverbs 22:10.  So, an environment where there is constant contentiousness and God’s basic order of things turned on its head, it is obviously not wisdom from above but wisdom from below.  I remember Dr. Toussaint putting it this way once in class at Dallas Seminary, ‘That there are people who wil go from place to place in the church world, and no matter where they go there is contention.’ Everywhere they go.  I know of someone who will remain nameless, and it isn’t anyone in Sugarland Bible Church.  I am thinking of someone whose doctrine is totally correct who has obvious spiritual gifts to serve the Body of Christ, and I know this person has been put into church after church after church, etc…. and literally, everywhere they go there is some kind of dissension.  That is not of God.  So, you can recognize wisdom from below because of its contentious nature.  It is jealous with selfish ambition, arrogance, it is under the sun in that it cuts off the human perspective, it is earthly and natural, ultimately it is demonic, and it is contentious.

You say, ‘Well, that is very depressing.  Do you have something nice to say?’ Yes, we do, in James 3:17,18 (and Proverbs 3), it describes wisdom from above.  These verses in

3:17But the wisdom from above… (see the ‘but,’ the conjunction.  He is contrasting it now with what we should embrace and reject) “…is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  So just as wisdom from below is anchored in certain proverbs, so is wisdom from above.  When James is writing this, he is alluding to certain proverbs.  So, the first thing that wisdom from above is:  pure; it is possible that he is alluding to Proverbs 15:26, “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord, But pleasant words are pure.”  God is looking for purity of motive in people.

What does it say in 1 Samuel 16:7 when God chose David and rejected Saul?  Don’t look at his outer appearance.  Man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.  God wants a pure heart.  That is why He said of David, ‘This man is after My own heart.’  He wasn’t a perfect man, obviously, but he had a sincerity with the Lord that He honored.  That is wisdom from above:  pure.  What else?  It is peaceable.  The wisdom from below is contentious — it is the person who troubles their own home.

“But the wisdom from aboveis first pure, then peaceable,”…and as you move down in the verse, it says18 “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” That is the name, peace, three times in those two verses; it is the Greek word, ‘Irene,’ where you can have a wonderful female name, called Irene.   Like Sophia, is a wonderful name.  What is of God is peaceful.  What did Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount?  ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’  Contention is not of God.  But peace is of God.

I think that James is probably anchoring this in Proverbs 3:1,2, “My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you.”  So, we should be people of peace, right?  I am talking about interpersonal relationships, I’m not making a case here for not fighting for our country.  That isn’t the context, but in interpersonal relationships with others.  We should be people who strive for peace in our relationships, shouldn’t we?  After all, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, so why is that people who operate under the banner of Christ, the Prince of People, are sometimes the most obnoxious people?  It shouldn’t be.  Ephesians 2:14,

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,…”. God is so into peace in interpersonal relationships that He took Jews and Gentiles who hated each other since the Jews thought the Gentiles were dogs ,and the Gentiles thought the Jews were arrogant.  In Christ, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are brought together in one new man and the dividing wall of hostility is gone.  That is how much God is into peace in interpersonal relationships.

So, wisdom from above is pure, peaceable and it is also gentle.  So, I think that he is basing his case here on Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”  So, when we receive an insulting comment from someone electronically or verbally, or when you are cut off on the freeway or treated unfairly, and your flesh wants to retaliate, but under the resources of God and the Holy Spirit, you subdue the flesh.  The Bible says that if you do that, then you are stronger than a person who goes out to war and conquers multiple cities.  That is the wisdom from above.  Remember the gentleness of wisdom?  That is what it is speaking of here.

The next one is ‘reasonable’ and I want to be reasonable….will stop here.