These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
We are in a series of lessons on wisdom and there is a reason for this. We are going through the book of James.
- In chapter 1, God told us we would face troubles, trials, and temptations. He wants us to experience victory and success when facing these obstacles in life. He told us we should be hearers and doers of the Word so we could experience the fullness of what He offers us.
- In chapter 2, God told us to not show favoritism of any kind whether it deals with a person’s wealth, gender, race, skin color, education or anything else. We are to treat people with value, significance and respect. Then he talked about how real faith will also produce actions of faith. The Spirit of God will produce fruit of the Spirit in your life.
- In chapter 3, God tells us about the power of our mouths and what we say and how we say it. Our mouths have the power to build up or tear down, lift up or crush, bring life or death into a relationship.
But to experience what James has been telling us we need wisdom. Before we get into James I want to highlight Colossians 2:2-4. It says, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments” (NLT). Wisdom is more about a who than a what. Its about having a relationship with Jesus and then growing in His truth. Keep that in mind as we read James 3:13.
In James 3:13 we are told, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (NLT). From this we see two types of wisdom: natural wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Those two wisdoms oppose each other. You are living by one of them. Today, I want us to focus on natural wisdom in order to identify in our own lives.
Characteristics of Natural Wisdom
James gives us three characteristics of natural wisdom.
Natural wisdom is earthly
First, natural wisdom is earthly.
- To be “earthly” is to be materialistic. Earthly wisdom will tell you that the most important things in life are your wealth, your health, and your happiness. A person living by earthly wisdom will be driven by making money and being happier. This person thinks happiness and meaning are in having things, nicer things, better things. Their mindset is all about what they can have here. They make decisions and govern their life based on these things.
- To be “earthly” is to be temporary. Earthly wisdom is about the here and now. For them it’s about getting all you can now, because you only live once. They have very little to no thought of the world to come.
When it comes to natural or earthly wisdom Colossians 3:1 says, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (CSB). If your life is about the here and now, then you are living your life by earthly wisdom.
Natural wisdom is unspiritual
Number two, natural wisdom is unspiritual. This word “unspiritual” is an interesting word and is only used here in the Bible. The word “unspiritual” is a weird word. It’s like the word undead. In movies zombies are often called the undead. They are dead, but not. They look alive, but they are not. “Unspiritual” is like that. It looks and feels spiritual, but its not. It’s unspiritual. So what does it mean?
- “Unspiritual” is driven by emotions. It refers to being selfish or sensual – meaning driven by one’s feelings. It refers to the lower nature of people. That part of you that hungers, lusts, craves, and desires something apart from God. The source of this unspiritual wisdom is your own thoughts, attitudes, interests, and pursuits. Unspiritual wisdom is driven by what makes a person happy, regardless of God’s desire.
- “Unspiritual” wisdom ignores the Holy Spirit. This person is guided by their own selfish desires, rather than the Spirit of God. This is why they will make decisions simply based on what they want, rather than what God wants. It’s their will, not God’s will that really matters to them.
Take a close look at 1 Corinthians 2:13 which says, “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means“ (NLT). Natural or unspiritual wisdom will never intentionally make decisions by God’s spiritual truths. Unspiritual wisdom ignores what God says and pursues the feelings of happiness.
Natural wisdom is demonic
Number three, natural wisdom is demonic. Demonic means two things when it comes to natural wisdom.
- It means to be influenced by the devil’s kingdom. You cannot explain natural wisdom as merely human. It is human plus something else. The devil’s wisdom will make earthly and unspiritual wisdom sound good and sound correct, but it will always lead you away from God. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (NLT). Natural wisdom will eventually take where you don’t want to go.
- It also means to be approved by the devil’s kingdom. The emphasis is on wisdom that reflects a philosophy or pattern of thinking so contrary to Gods’ truth that Satan himself could endorse it.
Ephesians 6:11 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil [this includes natural wisdom]. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (NLT). Wisdom is a battle ground and the devil wants you his side when you make decisions.
Colossians 2:8 says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (NLT).
God tells us that natural wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. That is strong language for a strong warning for us.
Consequences of Natural Wisdom
This natural wisdom will produce three things.
Natural wisdom will produce contention
First, natural wisdom will produce contention. When natural wisdom is operating in your home you are going to have more arguments, more conflict and more controversy. Contention and controversy always follows natural wisdom. Take a closer look at James 3:14 which says, “But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” James mentions jealousy and selfishness three times in connection with natural wisdom. So, let’s examine this.
- Natural wisdom produces bitter jealousy. There are two types of jealousy in the Bible. There is the good jealousy and the bad jealousy.
- The good jealousy refers to an attitude toward something that belongs to you being taken away from you. For example, a wife whose husband is being drawn to another woman. That’s her husband and she can become rightly jealous of her husband’s heart being pulled toward someone else. The same is true for God. When God gave us the Ten Commandments one of them dealt with not having other idols or gods in our life. In Exodus 20:5 God says, “You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods” (NLT). That is a good and healthy jealousy.
- The bad jealousy refers to this bitter jealousy that James is talking about. The word “bitter” (pikros) means to be pointed, sharp, or prickly. Jealousy is A strong feeling of possessiveness, often caused by the possibility that something which belongs, or ought to belong, to one is about to be taken away. When you combine the two you get a jealousy that is harsh, cutting, sharp, and destructive having no concern for the feelings or welfare of others who are involved. Natural wisdom will say this is yours so do whatever it takes to keep it or get it back. Bitter jealousy will lie, steal, cheat, slander, manipulate, or deceive in order to keep or get back what they thought was theirs. Natural wisdom produces bitter jealousy. You will see this bitter jealousy occur over relationships, money, time, space, and things.
- Natural wisdom also produces selfish ambition. Ambition is a good thing, but selfish ambition is a bad thing. Natural wisdom will tell you that you should have that and you deserve it so do whatever it takes to get it. Bitter jealousy wants others to be demoted, while selfish ambition wants you to be promoted. Selfish ambition says, “I will do or say anything in order to get my way.” Selfish ambition will nag, complain, gripe, give a silent treatment or withhold something in order to get what it wants. Selfish ambition will also be nice, kind, polite, generous, and helpful in order to get what it wants. Selfish ambition approaches life that says, “The ends justify the means.”
Galatians 5:19, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (NLT). Natural wisdom produces things from your sinful nature. Natural wisdom does not produce the things of God. It opposes heavenly wisdom.
When you are operating out of natural wisdom your needs become the driving force behind what you do. Your decisions begin to revolve around you and how you feel. When someone thinks like this they will eventually create contention and controversy in their home, at work, and among their friends. Those around you will eventually begin to feel used by you, rather than loved by you.
Natural wisdom will produce confusion
Number two, natural wisdom will produce confusion. Look at James 3:16 again, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder….” Disorder refers to instability, disarray, and confusion. When you find a life, a marriage, a home, a relationship, a church, or a nation that is unstable, in disarray, and in a state of confusion you will also find jealousy and selfish ambition somewhere in there. The reason for all this is because they are operating out of natural wisdom.
Natural wisdom will produce corruption
Number three, natural wisdom will produce corruption. Look again at James 3:16, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” The word “evil” (phaulos) means anything from worthless to revolting. Evil can range from a hurtful, but worthless look at someone to vicious brutality. Evil of every kind. Natural wisdom will eventually corrupt relationships at every level.
Listen carefully; wisdom is more of a who, than a what. God’s wisdom is not about learning a bunch of wise statements and then doing it. God’s wisdom is about developing a relationship with wisdom and letting wisdom live its life through you. Notice what Paul says about wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin” (NLT). Wisdom is more of a who than a what.
The wise life is Jesus living through your life. Wisdom is a Christ-empowered life that lives for the glory of God. Wisdom is allowing the Spirit of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the power of Jesus, the presence of Jesus, and the grace of Jesus to control and influence your life. When Jesus is the Lord of your life then God’s wisdom is in control of your life. Without Jesus there is no true wisdom. With Jesus there is all the wisdom you will ever need. Wisdom is more of a who than a what.
Proverbs 2:6, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (CSB). You must be in His word (read it, listen to it taught, think about it).