Earthly Wisdom Is...
Last week we looked at 3:1-12 in our study of the book of James and observed several truths. Teachers of the gospel have a greater responsibility before God than their students do. It is very difficult for any of us to control our tongues. The tongue is powerful and capable of great evil even though it is small. Any person who curses others and praises God with his tongue is hypocritical and lacking in true wisdom.

James then raised a question related to this theme in verse 13 - "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom." The Christian who is truly wise and understanding will prove it by his good conduct that is done in meekness. Contrary to popular thinking, true wisdom is not shown by one's ability to argue or make assertions but through the living of a godly life. The world regards men as wise if they have lots of letters after their name or if they are witty or eloquent speakers. But, the Bible emphasizes the need for good conduct and meekness. It's not enough just to have good conduct. It must be coupled with meekness; that is, without arrogance, pride, or desire for recognition. To do the right thing for the wrong reason doesn't please God (cf. Matt. 6).

James 3:14 declares - "But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth." Notice where bitter envy and self-seeking exist: in the heart. Before selfishness and bitterness are ever seen in a person's words or actions, they first exist in the heart, and that's where we must extinguish improper attitudes. Are you struggling to get along with someone else, perhaps even a brother or sister in Christ? What's the problem? Are you jealous? Are you bitter about something? Has your brother wronged you? If so, then go to him and address the problem (Matt. 18:15-18). But, if they have done no wrong, then don't develop a sour attitude toward them; don't become bitter. To do such shows that you don't have wisdom from above. Those who allow bitterness and selfishness to develop in their hearts will have difficulty with boasting and declaring the truth.

"This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic" (James 3:15). The wisdom of this world teaches men to be selfish, bitter, and hypocritical, but this is not the kind of wisdom that comes from God. This wisdom is of the earth because it focuses on things of this world and only finds satisfaction in such. This wisdom is also sensual in that it seeks gratification of the flesh. It seeks the satisfaction of personal desires with pride being the motivator. This so-called wisdom is of the devil!

3:16 - "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there." Where this earthly wisdom exists, certainly confusion and all kinds of evil will be present too. If you let envy and selfishness live in your heart, then pretty soon there will be disorder, division, and disruption manifested in your life. Those who are motivated out of pride will do whatever they feel is necessary to accomplish their goals, even if it hurts others or the church.

Jesus taught in Matthew 7:20 that a tree is known by its fruits. A person who causes division and disorder may have lots of earthly wisdom, but they lack true wisdom. Godly wisdom meekly shows itself through good works. Godly wisdom promotes peace, unity, and fellowship, not division and alienation. A person may have a sharp tongue and a shrewd mind, and his accomplishments and talents may earn him much acclaim in the world's eyes. However, if his efforts cause trouble among brethren, drive them apart, and make them enemies, then his type of wisdom is earthly, sensual, and demonic. The fruit that such a one is producing is rotten! Such a person serves Satan, not God; he is an enemy of the truth.