The life that produces divisions because of bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, and ambition is not merely unwise, it is from the devil himself. Beware of bitterness; even it’s root “defiles many” (Heb 12:15). Beware of covetousness; it is idolatry (Col 3:5). Beware of the schemes of the devil, and don’t be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11). True, godly wisdom is “from above”. It is from God himself. This wisdom is different from the world’s wisdom, because it produces “meekness” and a harvest of peace. When you reap the fruits of godly wisdom, brothers are restored, not divided. When you reap the fruits of godly wisdom, humility abounds.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Solomon instructs us, in a variety of ways, to “be wise” (Prov 8:33 for example). But often I struggle to know what is the “wise” thing to do. In the book of James (along with the rest of Scripture), God has given us a litmus test of sorts to distinguish between what is true, godly wisdom, and what is earthly and demonic. To be sure, there are situations where wisdom will be more nuanced, but as a rule, the verses above describe what wisdom most naturally looks like. I want to spend a little time explaining the verses above and hopefully help us to better discern what is wise, and what is not.
Earthly, Unspiritual, Demonic
For the sake of this post, let’s think of a situation that requires wisdom. Someone comes to you looking for godly counsel.