Summary: James speaks of two sets of attitudes. One focuses on negative attitudes and the other positive attitudes.
Two Types of Wisdom
Introduction: Conflict in relationships is more likely to occur as a result of values more than beliefs. The question then that we need to address in marriage is what are the values we need to portray in our Christian relationships.
James 3 has some resounding truths that will help us as we deal with the subject of values.
James 3: 13-18
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Thesis: James speaks of two sets of attitudes. One focuses on negative attitudes and the other positive attitudes.
We have in the passage, James comparing two lifestyles on what he calls "wisdom from above" and "wisdom that is from below." Vs. 14-16 speak of wisdom from below or earthly wisdom and Vs. 17-18 speaks of wisdom that is from above which is from heaven.
Guernesey states this about the text "We have found James’ description of the two sets of values very helpful in pinpointing the kind of values, attitudes, and behavior that make for healthy lives and relationships." (122)
The Two Lifestyles
I. A lifestyle based on "wisdom from below".
A. Earthbound values (A mind set)
1. James speaks here in 3:15 that "wisdom from below" is a value system that is "earthly", "Unspiritual", and "devilish."
a. Earthly is a word designated to mean standards of this earthly realm.
1.) This mind set is one that is based on the value of: "Let’s do it to them before they do it to us." It represents the survival of the fittest mind set.
T.V. show illustration, "Hill Street Blues".
2.) It’s also expressed in "Win at all costs", "I will have the last word", etc.
3.) This basic attitude or mind set sees life as a struggle. You really cannot trust the other person to want what’s best for you. In other words, you have to look out for number one, yourself, because no one else will. It’s a mindset that says they are out to get me.
4.) When a marriage has this mind set, then it becomes like an inner city ghetto mind set of surviving at all costs.
b. The second characteristic of a mindset that gets wisdom from below is reflected in the word unspiritual or natural.
1.) Barclay in his commentary notes that it is kind of like an animal instinct which snaps and snarls with no other thought than that of prey or personal survival.
a.) It means acting like a wild animal.
2.) Sound familiar? Have your arguments turned into dog fights with each one fighting to survive?
c. The third character of a mind set on "this earth" is one which is described as devilish, or demonic.
1.) Remember, though, this can mean subtle deception like spoken of in
II Cor. 11:14 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
Matt. 4: 1-11
4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’" 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’" 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’" 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.