James has been hard hitting, no-nonsense. Each week, his words have challenged our inconsistencies. In our text last week, James directed his instructions to the teachers. His pessimistic description of our ability to control our words, our tongue, left us considering what we say to those around us. This week we consider the later part of chapter 3; James contrasts two kinds of wisdom. Leaders want wisdom. They desire to adequately discern the movement of God’s Spirit in the life of the congregation. In the same way, each of us should desire God’s wisdom in everything we do. However, it is sometimes hard to recognize the forces at work behind our decisions.
James spells out the difference between the two types of wisdom. He describes wisdom that is from above. This is God’s wisdom; it the kind we want. On the other hand, James explains wisdom from below. In contrast to the above-kind of wisdom, the below-kind of wisdom looks entirely different. On Sunday, we will explore each one in detail. For now, allow me to give you a brief preview of each type.
Wisdom from Below
James begins to highlight the wrong kind of wisdom. This sort of wisdom manifests itself in boasting. James’ indicator for this wisdom includes two descriptors.
(James 3:14 ESV) “if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts”
When we look around at others and become envious, this marks the below-kind of wisdom. When our interests are selfish, it is an indication that we are looking toward the wrong source. The word for selfish ambition is just one Greek word. James uses this word twice in this week’s text. Paul also uses it in the famous Christ hymn.
(Philippians 2:3 ESV) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
The below-kind of wisdom is summed up in three words.
(James 3:15 ESV) “earthly, unspiritual, demonic”
We will talk more about these words on Sunday.
Wisdom from Above
In contrast to wisdom from below, James explains the characteristics of wisdom from above, from heaven.
(James 3:17 ESV) “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
We will unpack each descriptor on Sunday. Each word is loaded with practical application. In short, our wisdom source should be from God. This is not always the case. Sometimes we get caught up in the wrong kind of wisdom. Sometimes we listen to the corrupt voices of our culture. James help us differentiate the two types. As we seek to be led by God’s Spirit in all that we do, may we clearly distinguish the source at work in our lives.