James 3_13-18 (Earthly Wisdom vs Godly Wisdom)

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James 3:13-18 Earthly Wisdom vs. Godly Wisdom


* This past week I had the opportunity to go with mom and dad for mom’s pacemaker test.

We do that over the phone regularly, but for a more precise and detailed test one needs to see a qualified technician with the proper equipment.

The young man performing the test on mom was somewhat unsure about certain aspects.

He called in his supervisor and what ensued was a conversation in a language that I had never heard before.

For several minutes we listened to these men speak in terms that were completely foreign to us.

They both had knowledge in this medical field but one was obviously more experienced.

He taught and instructed the young man with patience and wisdom.

A wisdom that not only knew how to run the test but how it related to the intricacies of the heart muscle.

It appeared to me that this man not only knew the “how” of what he was doing but that he also understood the “why”.

Ill. The wisdom of the simple. “If I stop taking the nickels, they will stop offering the money.”


* Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. (Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

The classical view of wisdom is sought through philosophy and man's rational thought to determine the mysteries of existence and the universe.

The Greek word for wisdom; sophos (sof-os'); means the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.

Prov 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

So spiritual wisdom does not look to man’s philosophy or thoughts to determine the mysteries of existence but rather it FIRST looks to God.


The Bible speaks of two different kinds of wisdom; earthly and spiritual.

One comes from God, the other from Satan.

We find examples of both in God’s word.


* The building of the Tower of Babel seemed like a good idea.

Gen 11:4 “Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

Where does such wisdom come from?  James wrote,

 “Such wisdom does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.”

The builders of the Tower of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves; instead of lifting up the name of Jehovah God.

They reasoned that they would be united and not be scattered over the face of the earth when they should have sought unity through the power of their Creator.

* You may recall the story of Lot.

Both Lot and Abraham had large herds of cattle, and their herdsmen quarreled over their pasturelands.  In his wisdom, Abraham suggested that the two separate.

Being the godly man he was, he gave Lot his choice of land.

The Bible tells that Lot chose the lush, fertile, land of the Jordan River valley.

The pasture may have looked better but Lot failed to consider the consequences when he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen 13:12) You know how the story goes.

As a result of Lot’s unwise decision he lost everything he had except his two daughters.

Even his wife turned back to look and in doing so turned into a pillar of salt.


* Who can forget man’s first recorded act of poor judgment in the Garden of Eden.

Gen 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Gen 3:1-6  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"  "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.

"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”


* Earthly wisdom is a result of being self-focused instead of God-focused!

The Greek word for what James describes as “selfish ambition” means “a party spirit”.

It was used by the Greeks to describe a politician canvassing for votes.

It basically means, “Vote for me!”

This self-seeking spirit may work in politics but there is no place for it in the Lord’s church.

It promotes envy, jealousy, strife, and dissension instead of peace and unity of the Spirit.

Earthly wisdom says, “I’m smarter, stronger, faster, and better than everyone else”.

Earthly wisdom says “Go to the top; don’t worry about who you hurt or how you get there”.

The wisdom of the world says,  “The most important thing in life is self-fulfillment”

When the people attempted to build the tower of Babel, they wanted to make a name for themselves.

When Lot chose the Jordan valley, he was looking out for his own self-interest.

And when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, they saw that it was “desirable for gaining wisdom”.

But the wisdom they sought was self-seeking and forbidden by God.


* James 3:13 James describes spiritual wisdom.

“Who is wise and understanding among you?

Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

The Greek word that describes our English word “humility” means “gentleness of spirit or mildness of disposition”.


* It was used to describe a horse that had been broken.

Now, I don’t know a lot about horses but I do know that you can’t talk a horse that has never been ridden, into letting you on his back.

You have to get on and ride until it realizes that you are the boss and that you are in control. Until the horse’s will submits to yours.

But here is the kicker, pun intended.

A broken horse still has all the power that it once had.

The difference is, now its power is under the control of someone else.

You see, godly wisdom doesn’t surrender its ability; it just places it under new management.

* I would imagine that James gained some of his insight from the Wisdom of Solomon.

Prov 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

Read 1st Kings 3:1-14.

Read 1st Kings 4:29-34

You see, God blessed Solomon with wisdom because his motives were not self centered.

The blessing he asked for would not only be beneficial to himself but also to all those with whom he had influence.



* By listening to the Spirit.

1 Cor 2:12-14

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

When we are baptized into Christ we not only come in contact with His cleansing blood that washes away our sins, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.

Acts 2:38-39 On the day of Pentecost when Peter & the apostles were filled with the Spirit,

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call."


*By meditating on God’s Word.

2 Tim 3:14-15 Paul wrote these words to Timothy who was like a son to him.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

A person can get a good education in school and even gain earthly wisdom with life experiences but the source of spiritual wisdom is God and His Word.

* By asking for it.

James 1:5-8

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

Our God is a generous God.  What he has done for us is immeasurable

He is ready and willing to bless us with wisdom; but we have to ask.

Someone put it this way,

If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees!”


1 Cor 1:18

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

There are many today who call Christians and the teachings of Christ foolishness.

They call us fools because we believe in a God that they can’t see.

They say that we are close-minded because we refuse to compromise the truth of God’s word.

They say that we are weak and that we use religion as a crutch to deal with life’s problems.

Perhaps they say these things because, as Paul mentioned, they don’t understand.

* You see, we walk by faith and not by sight.

The evidence of our faith is found in the way we live and the things we do.

And the evidence of our wisdom is brought to light in the same way,

 James 3:13  “Who is wise and understanding among you?

Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

One final question

If God granted you one wish, like He did Solomon, what would you ask for?

The way we answer that question will tell a lot about our heart.


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