Summary: James describes how to identify counterfeit earthly wisdom and enjoy the inner peace that comes from heavenly wisdom.
There is a familiar picture of a man at the base of a lighthouse, standing in an open door. A giant wave smashing against the lighthouse, but the man seems oblivious to the danger around him. The picture is called“Lighthouse in the Storm” and was taken by French photographer Jean Guichard on December 20, 1989.
The picture shows a stark CONTRAST. There is a secure man in the middle of a raging sea.
Our study of James brings us to another contrast in James 3:13-18. It is the contrast of the peace that comes from following God’s wisdom, and the chaos that comes from following earthly wisdom.
James is telling us how to identify counterfeit earthly wisdom and enjoy the inner peace that comes from heavenly wisdom.
“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.” (James 3:13–18, ESV)
How to Identify Counterfeit Wisdom.
We need to know how to identify false teachers because they are trying to influence us!
Trying to get us to approve of their ideas
Trying to get us to change our behavior
Trying to get us to compromise our convictions
In the comparison that James gives on earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom, he will show us three things about each type of wisdom.
1 - there is a description of earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom
2- James tells us the origin of each.
3- James tells us the results in our lives when we pursue earthly wisdom and when we pursue heavenly wisdom.
First, James will inform us about earthly wisdom,
The Description of Earthly Wisdom (James 3:14)
Earthly wisdom is described as Bitter Jealousy. This term consists of two adjectives in the original text. The first (bitter) means “great hostility or animosity.” The word jealousy comes from a Greek word meaning “a greedy of prideful longing for something that belongs to another; even something intangible, such as a skill” (Bible Sense Lexicon).
Those who promote earthly wisdom can be identified because their motives are for their own gain and not others.
The second part of the description of earthly wisdom is Selfish Ambition. “A strong drive for personal success without moral inhibitions” (Bible Sense Lexicon).
When you see a teacher or leader with selfish ambition, know that he or she is being led by worldly wisdom.
TV Evangelist TD Jakes preaches a prosperity gospel. We object to the prosperity gospel on the basis of its content. But there is another reason to object to Jakes message. All you need to know about whether TD Jakes is promoting earthly wisdom or heavenly wisdom can be found in the fact that Jakes seeks honorarium fees in excess of $100,000 for telling people the good news! He expects private executive jet transportation, luxury hotel, limousine service, and exotic foods and luxury furniture in his own private “green room” prior to every preaching event. (See the article in World magazine http://www.worldmag.com/2014/04/management_mania)
Does this mean that TD Jakes is unsaved? NO. I don’t know that about Jakes or anyone else. But I do know that there is sufficient evidence in the selfish ambition of Jakes for me to say that he is operating out of a foundation of earthly wisdom and not heavenly wisdom.
James is writing to Christians to exhort them to Keep the Faith. A Christian, functioning in the flesh is an actually promoting Satan’s agenda. That is why James is warning Christians to recognize earthly wisdom.
It is entirely possible for a Christian to fulfill Satan’s agenda if they are operating in the flesh, or as James puts it, practicing earthly wisdom. Here are two examples from the NT from Christians whose actions in the flesh actually serve to fulfill Satan’s agenda.
EXAMPLE 1 - Peter ““Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”” (Matthew 16:23, ESV)
EXAMPLE 2 - Sinning Christians “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26, ESV)