Summary: As James points out, there are two kinds of wisdom: Godly wisdom (from above) and worldly wisdom. True wisdom is a gift from God and what we are doing with it today is not how God intended us to use it.
As many of you have probably heard before, the Greeks had three different words to describe three different kinds of love:
“Eros” … where we get our English word “erotic” from. It denotes a sexual sort of love.
“Agape” … denotes a spiritual or unconditional type of love … usually used to reference God’s love for us.
And then there’s “philla” (or “philos”). In contrast to eros and agape, it denotes a mental kind of love. It is the sort of love that exists when the one doing the loving benefits from the thing being loved. For example, brotherly love (philadelphia). I benefit from my love for my brother or sister.
“Philosophy” is the combination of two words: “philla” and “sophia.” “Sofia” means “knowledge” or “wisdom.” “Philosophy” is “the love of wisdom or knowledge” and a “philosopher” is a person who benefits from his or her love of knowledge or wisdom.
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” James asks (v. 13). James addresses this question to churches that were experiencing conflict … but the question very much applies to us today. “Show by you good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom” (v. 13). Just as faith without works is dead, what good is wisdom if it doesn’t lead to a good life? Your works … or lack of works … is evidence of the kind of faith … or lack of faith … that you have. How you live your life is evidence of the wisdom that you have in your heart and, according to James, there are only two kinds of wisdom … wisdom that comes from the world … and wisdom that comes from above, from God.
Let’s start out, as James did, by examining the fruits or evidence of a life lived by worldly or secular wisdom. “But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth” (v. 14).
“So ... you are the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks Jesus. “You say that I am a king,” Jesus replies. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world … to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).
What is truth? Hummm … what is “truth” today?
Now, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, truth is a body of real things, events, or facts … a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true … the property of being in accord with fact or reality.
Hummmm …. “a body of real things” … “facts” … “being in accord with fact or reality” … Hummmm … facts … reality … yeah … it’s that second definition that’s really thrown a monkey wrench into this whole “truth” business: “a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or … ACCEPTED as true.”
Here’s a term that you might not be familiar with but I can assure you that you’re living it today … it’s called “moral relativism.”
“Moral relativism” may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgment across different people and culture. “Descriptive” moral relativism holds that some people do, in fact, disagree about what is moral. “Meta-ethical” moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is ‘objectively’ right or wrong. “Normative” moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behaviors of others even when we disagree about the morality of it (Wikipedia).
“Right or wrong,” says the Legal Dictionary, “are not absolute values … but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances.” It goes on to say that “moral relativism can be used positively to effect change in the law, or negatively as a means to attempt justification for wrong doing or law breaking” (Legal-Dictionary.the freedictionary.com).
Let me simply it for you. Right or wrong is in the eye of the beholder. I can’t say what’s right or wrong for you and you can’t say what’s right or wrong for me.
As James points out, there are two kinds of wisdom. The opposite of “moral relativism” is “moral absolutism,” which “espouses a fundamental, natural law of constant values and rules, and which judges all person equally, irrespective of individual circumstances or cultural differences” (Legal-Dictionary.the freedictionary.com).
Worldly wisdom, says James, “does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish” (v. 15). Let’s see if James is right, shall we?
Stefonknee (pronounced “Stephanie”) Welscht is a 52-year-old man who thinks … or “feels” … that he is a six-year-old girl. He left his wife of 23 years and their seven children so that he could live with an adoptive family who accepts him as a six-year-old girl who wears jumpers and plays with dolls. In one of the pictures I saw, he had a baby binky in his mouth. Believe me, I wish I could burn that image out of my mind, but once you see something like that you can’t ‘unsee’ it.