Wisdom to stay away from
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. (Jas 3:15-16)
What kind of wisdom does not descend from above? “this wisdom” refers to verse 14 which we looked at in the last post. Wisdom that has bitter envy and self-seeking in it is a wisdom that does not come from above.
What does come from above? James will tell us the type of wisdom that comes from above in vs 17-18 but do you also recall James 1:17? He says “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” What a contrast! Remember that James told the one lacking wisdom to ask of God? (1:5) Wisdom is a gift of God and wisdom that is from God is not full of bitter envy nor is it self-seeking.
This wisdom, that is full of envy and self-seeking, is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For me, in this context, demonic brings to mind anything that is rebellious against the laws and desires of God. When you have envy and self-seeking you wind up with confusion and every evil thing. As I said in the last post, these are not two characteristics that you want to possess.
When I put this into application, I first think about teachers. James started off chapter three talking about teachers and Paul warned the Ephesians elders that from among themselves, their own ranks, some would rise up to draw followers after themselves. (Act 20:28ff)
The second thing I think about this type of wisdom is the absurdities it brings out in people. Wisdom that says “it is better to live together before you get married” or “little white lies are no problem” or “taking equipment from the office is ok because my employer can afford it” or “we need to set aside all religious differences-everyone is ok in God’s sight” and many other examples of wisdom like it are self-seeking or envy driven. When a person is interested in promoting their self or tearing down others, it is easy to find or create a justification. Just think of all the laws David broke in his sin with Bathsheba. Wisdom from above says premarital sex is sin, lying is a sin, stealing is a sin, and the wide gate of ecumenicalism will lead to destruction.
Confusion and evil things reign in the realm of the self seekers and envious. The evil part is easy to understand. All of the problems in this world can be traced back to ego and lack of love and when you think about it; ego and “not love” are almost synonymous. However, “confusion” is a word that I had never associated with bad things but a quick search in with a concordance will reveal that confusion is not a good thing. (I have just found a good word to preach on.) Confusion includes the idea of instability, disorder, riots but if that is not enough, consider this: “God is not the author of confusion” (I cor 14:33)
Sometimes when we use the word “confusion”, we overlook the “instability” aspect of it. If a person can be thrown into a state of instability by attack or temptations, sin can result. It also brings to mind the idea of building on the rock. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Mat 7:24) Talk about stability!
When Satan was tempting Jesus, can you imagine Jesus saying “Oh, I am hungry, mmm… I could turn the stones to bread. Oh what do I do, I am so confused!” Well, he didn’t have to. “it is written” he responded. No confusion, no instability. He resisted the temptation. Why? Because not only did he want to serve God but He knew God’s word.
Now that we understand what the earthly wisdom is, James will go on to explain the wisdom that comes from God.