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Two kinds of wisdom

Posted by: David Carroll

James 3:13-17 (NKJV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

James contrasts wisdom from above against earthly wisdom. I have never thought of wisdom that was not good. Bitter envy and self-seeking are clearly bad but are they wise in any way? The whole world is full of people who have these traits. Come to think of it, I have these traits but they are under control and suppressed. The world celebrates greed and the "me first" mentality because they accomplish their objective, at least temporarily, and I guess that is wise in some sense. But the bible calls such wisdom sensual and demonic. So here is the doctrine that demons are involved in rousing our fleshly appetites. God is not the author of confusion; evil desires are which use conflict, misunderstanding, hatred, and deception as their tools.

But James brackets this evil with wisdom from above demonstrated with good conduct. He speaks of the meekness of wisdom which is the opposite of arrogance. Wisdom from above is pure; if there is any worldly wisdom in the mix, the godly wisdom is canceled out. A peace-loving, gentle person willing to yield is content and a delight to be around. Mercy is not the same as pity; mercy results in action which is the good fruits spoken of here. Such mercy is freely given to the lovable and the unlovable. With godly wisdom, love is not a feeling but an action.

I want to be this way. Lord, make me to be wise and understanding.

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