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Thesis: James tells us that there are two different wisdoms trying to control our lives

one originates from Heaven above and the other is an earthly unspiritual wisdom.
Texts: James 3: 13-18 (NIV)
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by
deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy
and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such
wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.
16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every
evil practice.
17But 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.
18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:13-18 (The Message)
Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom?
Heres what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly.
Its the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.
Mean-spirited ambition isnt wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isnt wisdom.
Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isnt wisdom. Its the furthest
thing from wisdomits animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever youre trying
to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone
ends up at the others throats.
Real wisdom, Gods wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting
along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings,
not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust
community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard
work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
Many today are in the pursuit of wisdom. They desire to be able to make right
decisions that will affect their lives in a positive manner. They understand the key
ingredient to have in their lives is this thing called wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to
look at a situation and pick the correct way to handle it and therefore be in the
position to reap the rewards of that wise decision.
But James tells us there is a problem with which wisdom you listen to and adhere to.
Do you listen to wisdom from above which originates with God. He most likely
thought of the Scripture in Proverbs 1:7 which reveals that the beginning of wisdom
starts with the fear of the Lord.
Bill Hybels has this to say about how to attain true Biblical wisdom:
Do you want to begin the process of acquiring something that is worth much more
than gold? You start by obtaining the knowledge that is most central to the deepest

human needs, the knowledge that there is a God who is powerful and personal and
head over heels in love with each and everyone of us, a God who has extended to
us, through Jesus Christ his Son, the hand of forgiveness and grace. He says, Come
on, take that hand, and Ill help you make your life work. That is where we start.
The other wisdom active in this world is the thought process generated by this world
and influenced by the forces from below. This unspiritual wisdom leads to disorder
and every evil practice. In other words those who live according to this wisdom or
belief system will be in disarray and will be following the path of destruction. Its
path leads directly to the pit of Hell.
To make sure we are being influenced by the right kind of wisdom we need to go to
school and discover what wisdom is controlling our lives. The best way to do this is
to study the Scriptures and see what the School of Wisdom has to say about these
two opposing mind sets.
So we need to explore another Book in the Bible called Proverbs a book that paints a
clear picture of the two types of wisdom. One breeds people who are called wise the
other breeds people who are called fools. One produces a life filled with eternal
blessing the other breeds a life filled with everlasting curses. One will set you free
the other will put you into bondage. One will give your life ultimate satisfaction the
other will bring discontentment and lifelessness.
Bill Hybels observes this about the book of Proverbs:
What is wisdom? Wisdom is what is true and right combined with good judgment.
Other words that fit under the umbrella of the Biblical concept of wisdom are
discerning, judicious, prudent, and sensible. Not very glamorous words perhaps, but
words you can build a life on.
The first nine chapters of Proverbs form an introduction to the remaining twenty-two
chapters of the book and present the central message of Proverbs, which is this:
pursue wisdom. The introduction is written in the warm tones of a fatherly voice
giving instructions to his sons and eloquently building a case for the lifelong pursuit
of wisdom.
"Listen, my sons, to a fathers instruction; pay attention. Do not forsake my
teaching, get wisdom, get understanding, Do not forsake wisdom, Wisdom is
supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Accept what I say, I guide you in the way of wisdom"(16,17).
Proverbs opens up telling us that wisdom is the key to a successful life and we need
to make sure we pursue it with our whole heart. So lets look back at what James has
to say about wisdom from above and wisdom from below.
T.S. - So lets explore these two types and wisdom and do a parallel comparison of
these two lifestyles and see which one we should live by. Look with me in the book

of James and lets see which one is more beneficial.

I. How the two wisdoms will affect a persons heart condition?
a. The first thing James tells us about wisdom is what type of heart it has.
i. The wisdom from above has a heart that is pure.
1. Pure means uncontaminated with the philosophy of the world.
2. Instead this heart is centered on the ways of the Lord. His heart is centered on
the mindset of the Lord. He has a heart that has experienced the cleansing power of
the love and mercy of God and therefore his heart is white as snow.
3. This heart is spiritually in tune with the Spirit of God and its condition is one
which is healthy. Its a heart that will not die from a heart attack. But one that will
live for eternity.
4. Its a heart with no blemishes no diseases because it has been purified by the
power of the Lord.
5. Proverbs 1:1-7: 1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2for
attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3for acquiring a
disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4for giving
prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young 5let the wise listen
and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance 6for understanding
proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
a. Proverbs tells us that the path to wisdom starts with a fear of the Lord. This
healthy fear compels us to surrender our life to the Lord. When we surrender to the
Lord and ask for forgiveness He then washes our hearts and they become pure like
a first snow fall.
b. The reality is wisdom only starts with a relationship with the Lord.
i. No God - No Wisdom
ii. Know God - Know Wisdom
ii. The wisdom from below has a heart which is contaminated by the diseases in the
worlds system.
1. This heart has selfish ambition driving it. It is full of envy and its influenced by
the powers from below.
2. This heart is blackened with the sins of this world. It indulges itself in these sinful
diseases which are weakening its heart and will eventually cause a heart attack
that will kill it for all of eternity.
3. In this heart self-is the center of the universe not God.
4. This heart is focused on Whats my take in this situation, what do I get, I want it
my way or its no way!
5. This heart is unspiritual- meaning it does not hear from the Spirit of God. It is not
directed by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
a. Hybels states: "I like the phrase; rich toward God. What does it mean to be rich
toward God? I think it means to give God what he desires most, which is a
relationship with us. Some of us give ourselves lavishly and freely, richly- to all sorts
of people, activities, achievements and responsibilities. We devote our time, energy,
creativity and attention to our education, work, friends, families and pleasure. But
we forget about God. We never consider what it means to be rich toward him" (48)
6. In other words to have a heart that is spiritually connected to the heart of God.

The link in wisdom is to have this spiritual connection. No link- no wisdom- no linkno spiritual insight to make right decisions.

T.S. The two wisdoms do determine the condition of your heart and this heart will
influence your belief system.

II. How the two wisdoms will affect a persons belief system?
a. The second comparison made by James is that wisdom from above acknowledges
the truth and wisdom from below denies the truth and entangles people in the web
of deception.
i. The heart which is controlled by the wisdom from above will submit to the truth
that God is God. That he has created absolutes in this world to protect us and bless
us with in this life.
1. Truth says,"I follow the ways of God. He knows best, I dont"
2. Truth is an Old Testament term which denotes a reality that is solid, binding,
unwavering, real, authentic, and firm. This truth is what the purpose of life is about.
3. Its not a fantasy but a reality. And Dannys famous saying applies here, "When
reality and fantasy meet reality always wins!"
4. Truth in the New Testament implies a reality that is proven by the facts of history,
by experience, by archaeology, by life itself, by the life of Jesus, by Gods
involvement in this world.
5. Truth is defined as the real state of affairs this is to be the normal way to live
according to truth not the deceptive way of fantasy.
6. This truth is one that can rely on the fact that that which is true and is in control
and will prevail in the end. The truth will unmask the deception of the minds of the
ones who have rejected the truth of the reality of why we exist.
7. Truth with all its wisdom brings power and knowledge and that spiritual power
and knowledge produce life and that life reflects a light that points back to what is
True for life.
ii. A heart that is controlled by wisdom from below is a life that has been deceived.
1. They have the inability to see their deception and therefore they reject the reality
of truth. Because to them truth is false its a lie. In their unspiritual condition they
cannot determine that their condition is being influenced by a wisdom from below
which says, "Reject the ways of God thats not truth. Truth is living fro yourself for
you own selfish gain. You live for you and only for you. Focus on self thats real,
thats what life is about! YOU-YOU-YOU!"
2. As a result of rejecting the truth they embrace the philosophy of self. Life revolves
around what they want to do! What they want!
a. This distorted self mindset then gives way to selfish ambition and envy of others.
I no longer look at people to see how I can help. I look at them to see what I can
take or gain personally from them for my pursuit of happiness in life.
T.S. The two wisdoms not only affect the condition of your heart and influence your
belief system but this belief system will impact either positively or negatively your

III. How the two wisdoms will affect a persons lifestyle?

a. James makes another comparison of the two wisdoms he notes that Wisdom from
above will bring harmony and peace to a life whereas wisdom from below will bring
disorder, chaos and mayhem to a life.
i. The life of one living under the influence of wisdom from above will have a life in
1. A lifestyle based on "Wisdom from Above" will have seven character traits
present which bring fulfillment in life.
a. They will have a life filled with purity from above - means freedom from the
control of evil.
i. This all reflects back to where their heart is.
b. This life will have peace as a primary attribute.
i. Peaceable - In James there is an earthly wisdom that seeks to hurt others. But we
are able to seek wisdom that brings people closer together and closer to God.
ii. This wisdom produces a life which knows the value of creating harmony in
relationships. When people are peaceable they produce good will to others and
prevent wars.
c. Gentle or considerate - It is a person who knows how to forgive, when strict
justice would allow condemnation. It is the person who tempers justice with mercy.
i. Sometimes decisions need to be made that recognize that people are always more
important than things.
ii. This wisdom knows the value of being empathetic with others.
iii. It values the feelings of others.
iv. And knows that others are very important to God.
d. Reasonable or submissive - It means willing to listen, willing to be persuaded,
skilled in knowing when to wisely yield.
i. Romans 12: 1,2 Dear Friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to
Him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. Thats the most sensible way to serve
God. Dont be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think.
Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him.
ii. They will be ones who have their self-centered impulses under control.
1. They listen to God not to their selfish wants.
iii. They will know what it means to be Godly stewards of their money and their
1. They are people who are influenced by the wisdom of God which says you yields
what belongs to God to God.
2. A person with wisdom knows the value of tithing and giving offerings to the Lord.
iv. They will have good time management in their life knowing that certain spiritual
time commitments take priority over time wasters.
e. Full of mercy and good fruits.
i. The ability to care and reach out to others through acts of kindness and not
ii. This type of mercy will say I forgive you when the other person does not want
iii. This even has to do with a kind of mercy given to others even when the other
person has brought the problem upon himself or herself.

f. Impartial which is an unwavering quality - Its the ability of being calm in the
storms, being stable in turmoil, etc. The ability to be steady, operating according to
settled absolutes.
i. This person is settled upon those Biblical values and beliefs by which he or she
intends to chart his or her life.
ii. Romans 12: 9-21: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above
yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the
Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with Gods
people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who
mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to
associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone
evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is
possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take
revenge, my friends, but leave room for Gods wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to
avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry,
feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap
burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with
g. A lack of hypocrisy or sincerity- This is the quality of being real, not plastic, not
i. They will have a life where priorities are in the right order.
ii. The life being directed by wisdom from below will have a life that is in disarray.
1. They will not see the necessity of spiritual order in their lives.
2. They will concentrate all their time on the pursuit of self.
3. Its also expressed in "Win at all costs", "I will have the last word", Its all about
4. They will pursue pleasure over sacrifice for others.
a. Luke 12:15 Watch out! he said to his crowd of listeners. Be on your guard
against all kinds of greed; a man s life does not consist in the abundance of his
5. They will be controlled by impulses that race across their minds. Hybels thoughts
on the lack of wisdom in impulse buying.
a. "If anything in the Bible has been proven true, it is that the foolish gratification of
impulses will lead to a sick society, We see impulse buying, which leads to
indebtedness and financial ruin" (22,23).
b. "Is God talking to you about money matters now? Have you been careless with
your little? Have you taken it lightly and frittered it away? Have you been careless
with your much? Remember that your money matters to God, to your children, to
the poor and to the ministry of the church" (46).
6. Their lifestyle will be based on "wisdom from below" which will have an earthly
mindset which will cause mayhem and disarray.
a. James speaks here in 3:15 that "wisdom from below" is a value system that is
"earthly", "Unspiritual", and "devilish."
i. 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: "Lets do it to them before they

do it to us." It represents the survival of the fittest mind set.

2. This basic attitude or mind set sees life as a struggle. You really cannot trust the
other person to want whats best for you. In other words, you have to look out for
number one, yourself, because no one else will. Its a mindset that says they are out
to get me!
ii. Another characteristic of a mindset that gets wisdom from below is reflected in
the word unspiritual or natural. 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. It means acting like a wild animal.
iii. Another character trait 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
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
2. Matt. 4: 1-11: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by
the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter
came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become
bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on
every word that comes from the mouth of God." Then the devil took him to the holy
city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "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." Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the
Lord your God to the test." Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and
showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give
you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from
me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Then
the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
3. The scene here is where Satan tries to use sound reasonable dialog to seduce or
coerce Jesus over to His thinking. Note, he tempted Jesus with power, control,
wealth and fame. Also note, words seldom thought of as demonic but yet are.
4. Satan desires to get us seduced into values which are based on a lifestyle that
makes the pursuit of riches, comfort, or power and recognition, as the goal in life.
b. A life influenced by wisdom from below will have Earthbound Attitudes which
cause turmoil in this persons life: In verse 14, James notes that a person who is
influenced by the "wisdom from below" must subsequently deal with four attitudes:
i. Bitter jealousy and envy- "The word denotes one who is utterly convinced of his or
her own beliefs; the word reflects the zeal with which a person always thinks he or
she is right and cannot admit to ever being wrong." (Guernsey, 125)
1. They will show no mercy only the get even mindset.
2. They will have no empathy for others misfortune.
ii. Selfish Ambition - This denotes the "me first" attitude. Its a person who only
thinks of his or her own immediate gain.
1. Idea in their head is "Whats in it for me?"
2. Its my way or no way.
3. Attitude, "I never lose."
iii. Boastful Spirit and prideful - Reflects the attitude of a person who consistently
thinks they are better than others. These types assume their superiority over others

based on various ideas, sex, education, money, race, age, etc.

1. In Gal. 3:28 he addresses this type of an attitude. 28 There is neither Jew nor
Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
iv. "Orientation toward lying" - Here James refers to people who represent
themselves to be something they are not.
1. I Tim. 4:2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences
have been seared as with a hot iron.
2. Attitude is: "I will make you look bad and have me look good".
3. People who mislead others and lie to cover up.
4. The Air Force cadets Honor Code: "I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I tolerate
anyone who does."
iii. The life controlled by the wisdom from above will impact the way a person
interacts with others.
1. They will be submissive to God and they will pattern their life after Jesus servant
leadership model.
2. Submissive means that this person has the heart of a servant not of domination.
3. It means this person is submitted to God and to his direction in life.
4. They desire to have a lifestyle that promotes this attribute of living. We are here
to serve!
5. Their motto in life I choose to lose to the Lord and serve him!
a. They say, "No way to my way!"
b. Instead they say,"Yes, Gods Way!"
6. They also know the wisdom of being submissive to others in the Kingdom
because this leads to harmony and blessings in the kingdom of God.
7. They understand that they yield to others because of the truth of the cross. It was
the cross that Jesus yielded to. He showed us that he submitted to the Fathers will
for our sake.
iv. The person who listens to wisdom from below will not be submissive in their
lives. They will life a lifestyle with a mindset of everyone is to serve them and bow
down to them.
1. They will have a lifestyle that pushes others around, that scratches others who
get in their way. They will seek to shove others around and push people out of their
2. They are ones who are determined to get their own way.
a. Their focus will lead to evil practices that will hurt them and those around them.
b. They will say things like, "Its my way or the highway for you."
c. They will also say, "Its my way or no way."
3. They will be like the one who promotes wisdom from below they seek to destroy
others, they will seek to use and abuse people. Result they will reap the
consequences of this type of lifestyle.
a. They will have no genuine relationships and soon they will discover that they
were the ones who where used and abused.
v. When we allow wisdom from above to direct our lives our lifestyle will be filled
1. A vision which goes beyond our little world.
2. This vision will look for spiritual insight into why we are here and what our
mission is.

3. This wisdom will show us what we need to be doing with our lives.
vi. When we allow the wisdom from below to direct our lives our lifestyle will be
filled no satisfying vision for life:
1. People will drive after goals and when they are reached realize that they are
2. They then look back at their life and say it was not worth it.
a. Jesus story of the rich man and Lazarus reveal this principle.
T.S. Wisdom from above starts with a relationship with the Lord. This relationship
affects the condition of the heart which in turn them impacts our belief system. This
belief system then decides the type of lifestyle we live.
Knowledge can be memorized,
Wisdom must think things through.
Wisdom is the something that enables us to use knowledge rightly.
Wisdom resists group pressures, thinks for itself, and uses Gods insights to live
and make decisions.
Wisdom from above sees things through Gods eyes and starts with purity of the
heart and ends with purity in a persons lifestyle.
We need to listen to His wisdom and not the wisdom from below.
Remember Wisdom from above looks like this:
It counts the cost and lives for the future
It lives within its means
It follows the path of right living
It focus on relationships first with God then with others.
It puts first things first.
It knows to give to the Lord what belongs to the Lord.
It says no to impulses
It chooses to lose to self and allows God to be in control
It lives a life of peace and harmony
It chooses to serve and to be a doer of the Word of God
It says,"No Pride!"
It always presses on toward the goal of eternity
It produces a life filled with good fruit
It knows when to stop, walk and pray before speaking
It understands that faith + works = Success in life
Remember Wisdom from Below looks like this:
It has a heart that is filled with the influences of the dark side
It is a life that if filled with self centeredness and selfish ambition
It seeks whom it may consume
It seeks to focus on material possessions
It desires to walk over others to get its own way. It has a belief system that lives by

animal instincts
It has a belief system that has not spiritual insight in it.
It lives for evil purposes
It has a lifestyle filled with mayhem and disarray
It has a life filled with deception and distortion.
It has a life filled with no deep relationships
It has a life filled with bitterness
It has a life not worth living
We need to discern today which wisdom has taken root in our lives. The truth is we
are adhering to one or the other.
We need to determine today if we are going to allow wisdom from above to direct
our life or if we are going to let wisdom from below direct our life.
One brings satisfaction and blessing and a life in order the other brings disarray to
our life and curses. The choice is up to you! Which one will have you life?