Summary: What is the difference between human and Godly wisdom?
Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. Wisdom, biblical wisdom, is practical application of the truth of God’s salvation into the work of touching others for the sake of Jesus. Kenton just did that yesterday with lunches for those on the streets. But we’re not alone. Five families in Brandon Florida became convinced that they needed to lessen their consumer profile and use the money to help others. Living nearby they pooled resources like washing machines, lawn mowers and even cars. Childcare is a group activity as is sharing toys and recycling everything they can.
In an inner city a group of Christ followers became convicted that the empty lots could better serve the community so they started small gardens which were taken over by those living nearby. They offer fresh food to the neighborhood, cleaned up eyesores and even helped deal with some of the problems in the area.
These are only a couple of examples of what James would call wisdom at work. There are many such examples from World Vision, to Mission Aviation Fellowship, from Portland Organizing Project to Angel Tree, from Gideons International to Young Life. Each flowed from a person or group of people asking God what they should do about an issue.
Wisdom is one of the first themes we ran across in James. In James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him". Likewise this wisdom allows us to see everyone as Christ sees them and to take the work of faith as seriously as the beliefs about faith.
James asks the rhetorical question about who is wise. After all we’d all like to think we have at least a bit of wisdom in us. The question we have to ask is what the source of our wisdom is for there is an earthly wisdom as well as a wisdom that comes from God. One leads us into a place of blessing and hope and the other puts us at war with God.
Earthly wisdom is marked by a concern for us. It is a wound in which the ego has become an infected sore of pus and evil. Two phrases describe earthly wisdom. It is bitter envy and strife producing. Here’s the truth about us as people, we suck. Human wisdom is based on what we want, when we want it. It is human wisdom that sent Adam and Eve scrambling for clothes when they heard God walking in the garden. It was earthly wisdom that caused them to desire "to be like God" in the first place. It hasn’t changed a heck of a lot in the generations since. I had an interesting discussion on line about this same thing when it comes to worship. A big name in music apparently made the comment, "What I really don’t like is a lifeless ceremony. I’ve seen a lot of that." The poster explained that within the context of the whole interview, it seems like he just really doesn’t like things that don’t connect him with God and are ceremonial.
That was what brought out the rant in me. I couldn’t help but wonder at the people, like me, who think worship should be about what I want, what I like, and what I need. As I typed to him it dawned on me that I’m not even sure scripture cares if we "like" worship. Selfishness sees all of life like this.
James is the only writer in the New Testament to use this next word. Aristotle, a few centuries before Christ used it to describe those who "sought political office by unfair means". Strive happens when the issue, whether it’s abortion, federal health programs, a version of bible used in church, the time of worship, or anything else becomes the dividing line for right and wrong, God’s people or those outside of God’s love.
James then shows us the progressive picture of the source of this wisdom. It is earthly, sensual and demonic. It moves from the least to the most destructive nature. It starts out with the harmless, "it’s just common sense that we do this or that." You know the common sense that really isn’t that common. The next step is that which is devoid of the Holy Spirit. This happens when people do what they think is wise and hope it’s God’s will, instead of waiting for God to communicate His will. It is based on what we want. Then we see the very root uncovered which is Satan’s plan to separate us from God for eternity. When human wisdom is in charge there is no sense of fellowship, koiniea, or trust. Instead of the Body of Christ being built up it is torn apart.