In today’s culture, we often place a higher value on presentation versus content. Those who articulate well tend to draw a larger audience, but are we listening to what is said. Eloquent speech does not mean poor content, but it can mask a lack of content.
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1
Paul says I did not come to you, using $20 words or dazzle you with my presentation; I shared with you the testimony about God. To prevent confusion and deception, James 3:13-18 lays out the difference between divine and human wisdom.
The words wise and understanding are a frequent pair throughout scripture because one is the evidence of the other. The word “understanding” in the Greek means to know thoroughly. To know God’s word thoroughly requires intentional, dedicated work.
Here are a few ways that we can know the truth thoroughly.
- Take notes.
- Memorize scripture.
- Meditate on scripture.
- Talk about scripture.
Paired with understanding is the necessary partner of “wise,” which comes from the Greek word Sophos. Sophos is the root word from which the word wisdom is translated sofias, pronounced “Sofia.” Sofias means understanding in action. It’s to put understanding on display.
James goes on to reveal a characteristic of wise people; meekness. Meekness was considered a negative attribute in Roman culture. Pride was a noble trait. Meekness is power under control.
“But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1b
To be meek means, you restrain what could be said or done and exercise humility. Wisdom, apart from meekness is destructive.
Here, James contrasts three types of wisdom with wisdom that’s from above.
#1 Earthly wisdom.
Earthly wisdom is that which excludes consideration of God. It’s the person who has it all figured out but denies the existence of God.
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1a
The Bible isn’t saying that people who don’t believe in God are not intelligent. It means that they deny the divine, missing the mark of wisdom.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10
The word fear in Hebrew means respect or reverence. Acknowledging God’s existence puts you on the path of wisdom.
#2 Unspiritual wisdom.
Unspiritual/natural wisdom excludes supernatural possibilities. Having lived on both sides of this fence, let me tell you that living with an awareness of supernatural possibilities is much better than living without them.
The person with unspiritual wisdom accepts only things they can understand.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
Would God be God if we could fully understand Him, and if He were no wiser or bigger than us? When it comes to science, physics, mathematics, biology, and language, mankind only discovered what God created.
#3 Demonic wisdom.
This wisdom is that which is in direct opposition to God. It denies or rejects the idea of God and directly attacks the knowledge of God.
This category recalls the diagnosis early in chapter 3, of the “tongue by set on fire by hell.” People who demonstrate demonic wisdom are not all demon-possessed but their thinking is fueled by hell itself.
James then goes on to explain that poor wisdom can cause division based on the nature of their wisdom. James 3:16 explains how bitterness and selfish ambition creates disorder.
Disorder disassembles unity that is crucial to our peace and the experience of God’s presence personally and corporately.
When we accept Jesus’ forgiveness for our sin, He replaces our guilt and shame with His peace. This peace is possible because now we are united with God, no longer enemies.
Unity within the church is the key to the peace, presence, and power of God experienced. Without unity we forfeit our experience with God. Unity is the conduit in which the power of God flows through.
God will wait while we debate.
If we are going to fight, we should fight for unity, not each other. Seek unity over winning the argument. There is no argument worth winning at the expense of unity.
The church is the representation of God and the establishment of His kingdom in this world. We can’t operate like the world and be identified as His kingdom.
Today, take some time to examine the source of your wisdom. Your wisdom is the foundation of your thinking, speaking, and actions. A step in the wrong direction can lead you miles apart from where you want to be.
(If you’d like to hear this recorded talk, click here)