Heavenly Wisdom Verses Demonic Wisdom
Wisdom, it could be said, is the
ability to successfully apply what we know to the circumstances of life. To that
end we all have a certain kind of wisdom.
The Scriptures encourage us to
grow in wisdom. The book of Proverbs has the recurring theme of the need to seek
for wisdom. Yet there is more than one kind of wisdom. There is one pleasing to
God and there is one pleasing to Satan. Unfortunately, too many have the wrong
James tells of the two kinds of
wisdom one can have: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let
him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye
have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against
the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual,
devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil
work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,
and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and
without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that
make peace” - James 3:13-18. In this passage, he shows the differences between
the two. Differences in their origins, differences in their nature, and the
differences in their fruit. As he goes through these differences it should
become self evident, that which we are to seek after.
They Are Different in Their
Origins. Worldly wisdom is earthly. It is the wisdom of the here and now. It
gives no thought to spiritual things (cf 1 Corinthians 2:14). A number of years
ago I spoke with a man who was very concerned about how much he would get in his
superannuation when he retired. I mentioned that he might never reach retirement
age, but what about considering his spiritual well-being and where he will spend
eternity, something we will all face one day! He quickly lost interest. He was
typical of so many who have given no thought to where they will spend eternity,
nor do they want to. This kind of wisdom is the wisdom of the masses.
Worldly wisdom is also sensual in
nature. It is guided by the lusts of the flesh (James 1:13-15). It is that which
caused Eve to stumble (Genesis 3:6). The fruit was appetising, it looked good,
it promised to make one wise, and so she took of it and ate, despite God’s
explicit command not to.
The wisdom of the world is the
guiding principle of the majority: “If it feels right, do it!” or simply “Do
what is right in your own eyes”. It is the philosophy behind Situation Ethics,
and it stands utterly opposed to God.
This wisdom is also demonic in
nature, for it is the wisdom of the Devil. Satan and his angels sought to exalt
themselves against God. For their rebellion they were cast out of heaven (Luke
10:18; 2 Peter 2:4). Selfish pride is a manifestation of this wisdom (Proverbs
16:18), and too many have fallen into the same error as Satan.
Those who focus on self, allow
themselves to be guided by the Devil (Matthew 16:22,23; John 13:27). If we
aren’t living for the Lord, we are against Him (Matthew 12:30). Therefore to be
guided by worldly wisdom is to be lost and in the eyes of the Lord – a fool!
On the other hand there is that
wisdom which is Godly in origin. It is above; from God - the source of true
wisdom (Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25). From the Scriptures we learn
that every goal, every direction, every manner of life that is not directed by
God is foolishness. Consider the foolishness of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21),
who put all his trust in his possessions only to leave it all behind. Or what of
those who spend their whole life devoted to false religions, only to learn too
late that Jesus is the only way to the Father? (John 14:6) Or again, consider
the error of those who in their belief in Christ, obey the religious teachings
of men and not God (Matthew 15:9)? Only by following God’s way, according to the
Scriptures can we be truly wise (1 Corinthians 3:19,20).
Heavenly wisdom comes by: fearing
God (Proverbs 1:7); by desiring it earnestly (Proverbs 4:4-7); by valuing it
(Proverbs 16:16); by studying God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16,17); by prayer (James
1:5); and by practice (Hebrews 5:12-14). One cannot go into a Bible Class and
come out wise. They can come out with more knowledge, but true wisdom will only
develop from applying that knowledge in daily life.
They Are Different In Their
Nature. The focus of worldly wisdom is, as previously mentioned, essentially
self-centred. Those possessing this wisdom see everything in terms of what can
be done for them or theirs. This is manifest in their treatment of, and attitude
towards others (cf Luke 6:32-34). It is also evident in their striving for
things like power, position, and prestige. They measure themselves by these and
crave for titles and status symbols.
Those with the wisdom of the world
are full of bitter envy. They want what others have; they are never content. If
they cannot have it, they try and spoil it for those who have. This is the
mentality behind the ‘tall poppy syndrome’. If we cannot have or be what others
are, then we will find fault in order to bring them down to our level.
Unfortunately, some in the church
have this kind of wisdom. There are those who use Christianity in order to win
the praise or attention of others. I remember one sister who seemed to be so
involved in all that was going on in the church, but as time went by it became
clearer that her motives were self-centred. When this could no longer be
concealed, she quickly fell away.
Then, there are those who use
Christianity in order to wield power. Diotrephes is a scriptural example (3 John
9). Again, I have known brethren who sit at Business Meetings, not out of a
genuine concern to serve the church, but in order that they might have selfish
Then there are those who are
spoilers. They see the righteous attitudes and actions of others. Rather than
being spurred on by these good examples, they seek to discredit and find fault
with faithful brethren. The same jealousy Saul exhibited towards David
unfortunately can arise in the church today.
How different Godly wisdom is in
its nature! “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without
partiality, and without hypocrisy” James 3:17.
This wisdom is pure. It is not
mixed; it is not corrupt. Those who have this wisdom focus on following God
wholeheartedly. They have counted the cost of being a disciple (Luke 14:28-33);
they do not look around (Luke 9:62); they keep their eyes on the goal of heaven
(Colossians 3:2; Philippians 3:13,14). Those with this wisdom test all things
and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Godly wisdom is peaceable. The
sincere Christian does not seek for strife (Romans 12:18) rather they seek for
harmony and unity among brethren (Psalm 133:1; Philippians 1:27). They seek to
do good to all (Galatians 6:10), and the greatest good one can do for another is
to help them be at peace with God. Those who have this wisdom are truly blessed
(Matthew 5:9). As heavenly wisdom seeks for peace with God, the faithful
Christian will not compromise the truth for worldly peace, but will hold it
fast, seeking for spiritual peace, for they know that unless they have peace
with God, they have no real peace. Peaceable wisdom does not strive for the
absence of all conflict, but the absence of conflict with God.
Heavenly wisdom is also gentle. It
has with it the quality of fairness and forbearance. It is patient and
considerate. It stands in contrast to the fruit of worldly wisdom, which is
contentious and argumentative (Titus 3:2). The gentle Christian does not insist
on his own ‘rights’, but puts the well-being of others before his own (1
James further tells us that the
wisdom of God is easy to be entreated or willing to yield. It is willing to
yield to authority: to the authority of the Scriptures, to the authority of the
elders, and to civil authority. Those with this wisdom are not too proud to
admit they have made errors and allow themselves to be corrected. Apollos in
Acts 18:24-28, was such a one. Again, possessors of this wisdom will always
acknowledge that there is more to learn. They hold fast to what is true, deepen
in that knowledge, and are prepared to learn new things. How many problems would
disappear in the church if more brethren had this kind of wisdom?
This wisdom is said to be full of
mercy and good fruits. Mercy, being the quality of seeing the needs of others,
and if it is within our capability, doing something to help. It will be manifest
in the deeds we do (James 2:14-16; 1 John 3:17,18); it is a true token of a
living faith. Those who have shown mercy will also be shown mercy from on high
As we consider the nature of Godly
wisdom we also learn that it is without partiality. The truly wise do not show
favouritism in the handling of God’s word, but they follow and teach the whole
counsel of God to all (cf Acts 20:27). Nor do they show favouritism to persons (cf
James 2:1ff). They apply God’s word equally to physical family who are in
Christ, to close brethren, to ‘prominent’ brethren, and to all. In both attitude
and actions the wise are consistent.
Finally, God through James tells
us that this wisdom is without hypocrisy. The difference between what a person
says and really thinks, or between selfish ambition and a genuine good deed,
will often be suspected before it becomes obvious. However, even, if one could
hide their hypocrisy before man, it cannot be hidden from God (Romans 2:16). The
wise Christian will be consistent with what they profess and what they do.
Christians are not to play act, but genuinely desire and attempt to live
They Are Different In Their
Fruits. We are told that worldly wisdom brings forth confusion and every evil
work (James 3:16). When people are self-seeking, worldly-minded, envious, guided
by ungodly thoughts, there will be problems! Trouble in the home, trouble in
society, and trouble in the church.
The wisdom of Satan promised so
much, it seems so appealing, yet it always leads to so much wickedness. Hurt, as
we use others to satisfy our desires, and they do so unto us. Hate, as we envy
what others have or are doing. Hell, as it takes us away from God (Romans 7:5).
When this wisdom is present amongst the brethren, it leads to cliques, division,
false teaching, backbiting, and every evil work.
In stark contrast, the fruit of
heavenly wisdom is righteousness, which is the product of those who are at peace
with God. They will bring forth many other wonderful kinds of spiritual fruit
(cf. Galatians 5:22,23); the greatest of all will be eternal life.
To conclude, who then is wise and
understanding among you? We will have one of two kinds of wisdom. One is of this
world and the other is from above. One is self-seeking and causes strife; the
other is God centred and creates peace. One causes harm and division, the other
brings forth righteousness, joy, peace, and love.
Although, it should be
self-evident which kind of wisdom we should have, sadly some prefer (even
brethren) the wisdom of this world. Godly wisdom is one we should earnest strive
for. Brethren, let us not be deceived, but let each of us leave behind the
wisdom of this world (which is in reality, the wisdom of fools) and grow in the
peaceable wisdom of God (Colossians 1:9,10).