Two Kinds of Wisdom


 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to 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 will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. _ James 3:13-17


Growing up, I’ve always been fascinated by the topic of wisdom, and this was spurred on by my reading of 1 Kings 3:1-15 as a young boy. In this account, Solomon has just been anointed King over Israel, and on one night he has a visitation from God in a dream. In this dream, God tells Solomon to ask for anything he wants. In response, Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment. I remember being shocked at this request. Here is a young man, who’s just been told to make a wish list and ask for whatever he wants from God, the maker of all things by his word, a God who is able to do the impossible and grant the unimaginable, and all he asks for is wisdom! I remember wondering what I would have asked for. A new bicycle, or to never have to write tests and exams again, or how about the latest TV game! Solomon’s response made me want to dig deeper into this whole wisdom thing, and why it surpasses the greatest pleasures and joys this world has to offer.


So what is wisdom? Who is the wise man? According to James, we can tell who the truly wise man is by “his good conduct as he shows his works in the meekness of wisdom”. What a high calling this is, and in today’s text, after exhorting his readers to pursue wisdom in James 1:5, he now goes on to unpack the meaning of true wisdom, in contrast to false wisdom.


James tells us that those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition exhibit earthly wisdom, which is not godly. In fact, this kind of wisdom is “unspiritual, earthly and demonic” (Jas 3:15). Just as the tongue can cause a lot of destruction (Jas 3:1-12), so jealousy and selfish ambition can destroy people and relationships. Because of jealousy and selfish ambition, people commit adultery, ruin careers, destroy neighbours through slander and gossip and, as James puts it, bring about “disorder and every vile practice” (Jas 3:16). Undoubtedly, this sort of earthly “wisdom” displeases God and should not characterise the disciples of Christ. Jealousy and envy say, “I’m not satisfied with what God has graced me with, so I want to dethrone my neighbour in his marriage, his possessions and talents”. Dear child of God, does this describe you? Do you harbor these bitter thoughts? Are you all about yourself and not others?


There is, however, a better alternative, a better road to take of heavenly wisdom which should be true of those who want to be true to who they are in Christ. The wisdom from above, as James says, is pure, peaceable (not argumentative or militant), gentle (respectful and pleasant), open to reason (quick to listen, and slow to speak), full of mercy (quick to show compassion and forgiveness), impartial (indiscriminate towards all men), and sincere (not hypocritical). Does this kind of wisdom remind you of someone? Does it remind you of one who was pure and sinless, who did not return rebuke for rebuke or avenged an insult? Does it remind you of one who was so gentle that he would not snuff out a burning wick or break a bruised reed? Does it point you to one who was being murdered yet cried out “Father, forgive them”, showing mercy to his enemies? Our Lord Jesus is the ultimate wise man, he is truly the “Wisdom that comes down from above” (Jas 3:15). Being beneficiaries of his wisdom, he calls us, through James, to follow in his footsteps and exhibit this kind of wisdom. You don’t know where to start? Look to him and ask him to make you as wise as he was when he walked on earth. Dear Christian friend, your marriage, children, friendships, your job, will be the better for it. May God grant us wisdom from above in accordance with his will.


May he grant us wisdom ,poweful word
Thank you for this powerful message. May God bless us with wisdom. Amen.

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