Originally posted by me on Truth in Palmyra
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
What is Wisdom?
Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing. Surely, we all know somebody who fits the bill of having lots of book knowledge but no common sense. In fact, I have been accused of that very thing myself! How many down South have heard the phrase, “That boy ain’t got no common sense!”?
Wisdom can be defined as, “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” This definition was put in the dictionary with life in mind, but certainly applies to our relationship with God’s Word as well. In fact, one might say it is the key to our relationship with God’s Word. Proverbs 4:7 sums up in one sentence the importance of wisdom in our spiritual lives:
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
We have discussed in some depth that an intellectual, or head knowledge, about God’s Word or about Jesus Christ does not necessarily translate into a saving faith. The same is true concerning our intellectual knowledge about The Bible. We can know the whole thing from front to back and still not possess wisdom concerning it.
Wisdom regarding God’s Word, then, might be defined as the ability to take a knowledge of the facts in The Bible and transfer that knowledge into practical applications in our lives. God did not inspired the writers of The Bible to write so that we would have facts; He intended us to take His Word and use it as our guide for faith and life.
We ought not to be surprised that James is addressing this subject; in fact, it would be rather surprising if he did not talk about it. After all, the entire Epistle is about the practical applications of the Christian life.
Also, it may be possible here that James is simply continuing his discourse on our tongues, and the things which come out of our mouths. A lack of wisdom causes things to come out of our mouths which destroy, and the presence of wisdom causes things to come from our mouths which edify and build up.
We are going to spend a bit of time on this particular passage, but here is just a question to ponder over in the meantime: Are we smart, or are we wise?
Wisdom for Teachers
One way this passage is considered by some is that it is a continuation of an exhortation to teachers. This exhortation would have begun back in in the Verse 1 of this chapter.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
If this interpretation is correct, then James made it clear at the first of the added responsibilities teachers have for the ways in which they allow their tongues to behave. Greater responsibility brings greater loss of reward if the responsibility is fulfilled improperly.
Not everybody agrees with this particular interpretation, but feel James’s instruction was for all members of the audience he was writing too; either way seems perfectly okay, so we will just touch briefly on how this might apply specifically to teachers.
Simply put, teachers need more than just a lot of pretty words; they must have something to say. Teachers are not in place just to read scripture, or regurgitate some Sunday School lesson; teachers are there to impart wisdom.
I heard it said that knowledge enables us to take things apart but wisdom enables us to put things back together and relate God’s truth to everyday life.
If we are teachers, are we relying on just knowledge, or do we have wisdom to impart?
Where Does Wisdom Come From?
James teaches us that there are only two sources of wisdom. Wisdom can come from God, or man. Wisdom can come from above, or not. In other words, we can get our wisdom from God, or Satan. We could stop right there and the point would be made, but let’s continue and break it down some anyway.
James was not alone in his thoughts about the wisdom of man versus the wisdom of God. Paul had some to say about this in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. In fact, those chapters are good reading for anyone placing great stock in the wisdom of the world. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:20 that God considers the wisdom of the world to be foolish, and in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that man considers God’s wisdom to be foolish.
If we can take a quick side trip here, I have been amazed to see how the two writers in God’s Word sometimes said to conflict with one another(James and Paul), in actuality complement each other in astounding ways.
How do we get the wisdom of God? How do we get the wisdom of the world? Immersion is the answer. That word has been coming up a lot lately around every corner I turn, and it’s a good word. We get our wisdom from wherever we choose to immerse ourselves.
If we are immersed in television, movies, music and literature which is from the world, we will get our wisdom from the same place. If we are immersed in God’s Word, immersed in prayer, and immersed in fellowship with other believers, then that is also where our wisdom will come from.
Worldly Wisdom is………
The wisdom of the world is, “earthly, sensual, devilish.” Another Bible translation says the wisdom of the world is, “Earthly, natural, demonic.” Let’s expand on these three some in today’s devotional.
Anything other than God’s wisdom is earthly. That is, it is restricted to the limits of this world. It is limited in time, in the sense that earthly wisdom is restricted to the present world only and has no bearing on our eternal world. It is limited in that earthly wisdom is man’s wisdom. It is restricted to what we can do, learn and create under our own power and ability. There are some fruits, really negative fruits, of earthly wisdom we will talk about in another devotion.
Anything other than God’s wisdom is natural. That is, it is interested only in things of the flesh. If we look back, we can clearly see that it was natural wisdom which resulted in the Fall of Man in the first place. It was the seeking to know what God knew that lead Eve to take and eat the forbidden fruit. Instead of accepting the wisdom God had provided, Adam and Eve sought worldly wisdom. Remember what John said in 1 John 2:16?
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Finally, anything other than God’s wisdom is demonic. Now, that doesn’t mean if we study the Encyclopaedia we will become demon possessed. (For those readers who remember what those are!). That means the root of any wisdom other than God’s wisdom is Satan. Once again, a trip back to the Garden of Eden is in order. Adam and Eve had all the wisdom they needed. Adam, at least, had marching orders straight from the mouth of God. One rule and one rule only. That was simple wisdom and Godly wisdom. Let’s see what happened in Genesis 3:5:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Satan first introduced worldly wisdom to mankind, and he still does it today. Just like Adam and Eve, we have a choice what we listen to. Do we listen to the wisdom from above as provided in God’s Word, or do we listen to the wisdom of the world as provided by The Devil?
Next ..the dangers of worldly wisdom