Who is wise…? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
Humility! The virtue that gets lost in the speed of fast-track living. From the Greek word, prautes, humility is “gentleness, not born in weakness, but in power.” I’ve heard it referred to as”bridled power.” James tells us a little secret. True humility only comes from wisdom. But here’s the catch. Only heavenly wisdom produces humility. Counterfeit, or earthly, wisdom is simply a veneer over secret pride.
James exposes the dangerous underbelly of “earthly,” wisdom:
If you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth. This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal). (James 3:14-15 Amplified Bible).
Envy, rivalry, selfish ambition. Earmarks of earthly wisdom. But James digs deeper. Such “wisdom” is not only “unspiritual,” it’s from the devil. This kind of wisdom trips us up in our faith walk, it gives birth to all kinds of evil:
For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices. (James 3:16)
The devil has no new tricks. He dangled the same “earthly wisdom” to lure Eve. When she saw that “the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” (Genesis 3:6). No wonder he still tempts us with the same drug of choice!
Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at true wisdom, or what James calls “heavenly” wisdom. In the meantime, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make us alert to the dangers of earthly wisdom.
Lord, help me resist the temptations of “earthly wisdom” all around me. These look appealing, but are false fruit, tempting me to pride and self righteousness. Give me the kind of true humility, or “bridled power,” that causes me to look up and lean only on You. -Amen.
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