Divine Wisdom vs. Worldly Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

The types of wisdom described here, divine wisdom and worldly wisdom.   Divine wisdom comes from God that is:

  • Pure
  • Peaceable
  • Gentle
  • Open to reason
  • Full of mercy and good fruits
  • Impartial
  • Sincere

In contrast, worldly wisdom is characterized as “earthly, unspiritual, demonic,” producing selfish ambition, bitter jealousy, boastfulness; it is deceivingly disguised as truth apart from God.  

If we work diligently to learn more about our Lord and his ways, he will show us how to appropriately apply his statutes by expressing them in our conduct, not being argumentative, jealous, or bitter, but instead patient and understanding.  I have seen how arrogance and conceit is borne out of completing a formal education where a man proclaims to be wise and looks down on peers who do not match up to his intellect.  Consequently, his attitude rudely creates alienation and discord where people are most happy whenever he is absent.  To cure himself of this worldly wisdom, he must first come to know Jesus and then yield to his teachings.  He assures us that the Helper will guide and enable us to practice “meekness in wisdom” so that we don’t fall into the trap of pride.

Meekness in this sense is not being weak but is instead keeping ourselves under the control of the Holy Spirit.  I once heard a preacher explain that it is “strength under control.”  We have all seen examples of the opposite where someone immediately erupts into violent rage because of an offense committed against him.  We don’t have to be this way.  In fact, we have choice to be covered by the peace of God so that it flows through us and onto others, so much that Jesus begins to look much more appealing and desirable because he is made visible by our behavior.

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