Earthly Wisdom

James 3:14-16: “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, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Here we get to a big “But” in the Bible. Satan has a substitute for every good thing God offers.

“Bitter Envy” means you are discontent with the good fortune of others. When something goes right for someone else, you don’t congratulate them (even though you might be on the outside), your heart is bitter, jealous, angry even, that something like that didn’t happen for you. You develop a harsh, resentful attitude towards others.

“Selfish ambition” means your actions are motivated by a desire for yourself to succeed. It is putting yourself on the throne; it is a strong drive for personal success with a hint of doing so without moral inhibition. This is asking, “what’s in it for me?” or “how does it affect me?” before anything else.

You can see how this type of attitude can impact your marriage, your relationships at work, the church? These types of people have no regard for God. They don’t fear Him, and they certainly don’t respect Him.

You can also see that these feelings are matters of the heart. Bitterness and selfishness run deep! That is why the Bible paints the picture of “deny yourself” over and over again. It isn’t about what’s best for you, but about what brings God the most pleasure and the most glory.

Wisdom also never parts company with the truth (“deny” at the end of v. 14). The truth always comes home to roost, doesn’t it? You may fool some people for a while, you may even fool yourself, but you will NEVER fool God, and the truth will always win.

This earthly wisdom based on selfish desires is not from God. Where is it from? Satan.

“Earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

“Unspiritual” is wisdom from man’s fallen nature, not the new creation we are in Christ. It has hints of man in his unsaved state of sin, characterized by the finite and fallen world. It is sensual. 

It is also “demonic,” in open rebellion to God. 1 Timothy 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

This earthly wisdom is seen as foolishness in the eyes of God (1 Corinthians 3:19-“ For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight”).

It leads to disorder and every evil practice (v. 16). Disorder is a state of violent disturbance, trouble, confusion, instability, ungodliness. We know that God is not a God of chaos, so where chaos reigns, the devil’s hand is at work. 

Every evil practice hints at worthlessness, turmoil.

Simply put, our wisdom shows up in our deeds, either good or evil. Listen to Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:17: “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Christian, be a good tree! Bear good fruit! 

Some questions to consider:

-How is earthly wisdom influencing you?

-Do you fear God?-Do you agree that wisdom shows up in deeds (including the motivation for those deeds)? Why or why not?

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

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