14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. ~ James 3:14-16
In today's passage, we return to James 3 where we discover whether or not we have received God's wisdom. In today's verses we discover when we give safe haven in our souls to bitter envy and selfish ambition, we give the enemy of God rightful sway in defining us.
When we became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we then entered into the ability to access God's wisdom. We might say that our sanctification is the equivalent to gaining God's wisdom. And, once we have gained His wisdom, it will be made evident in our lives by the choices we make. God's wisdom is relating with God in a life-changing relationship, but today, we consider the devilish origins of man's wisdom.
In v.14 of today's passage we read, "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth."
The motivation behind false wisdom is bitter envy and selfish ambition. People who possess this world's wisdom are self-focused, and are eaten up with a bitter attitude toward anyone who threatens the world of their own creation. These who are defined by evil itself are resentful of anyone who threatens their accomplishments, status and reputation. These are those who think if anyone differs with them, well, they are evil and wrong. They also believe if anyone agrees with them, well, they are trustworthy and good.
In addition to being motivated by "bitter envy," those defined by this world are motivated by their own "selfish ambition." This means they have a personal ambition that creates antagonism with all who differ with them. The origins of this phrase "selfish ambition" was used of ladies who spun thread. This phrase eventually came to mean any work done for pay. And then it came to mean anybody who did anything for what they could personally get out of it. It entered politics and it became used of those who sought high political office, attaining their personal goals at any cost.
To put it simply, the wisdom that is not of God is selfish and self-centered. It has as its goal personal gratification at any cost. It is the goal of humanistic thinking, sociology and psychology. With it, there is no selflessness, no humility, and no love for someone else.
In v.15 of today's passage we read, "Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic."
This wisdom is earthly (of this world), unspiritual (of the flesh) and, demonic (of the devil). We see this list in other passages in the Bible as the world, the flesh, and the devil.
That which is earthly cannot crawl out of the world's locked prison of time and space. It is outside of God and all of His eternal truth. Apart from Christ, man cannot get out of this prison. Man conceives what he thinks is impeccable truth without spiritual illumination from God. Unsaved man never rises above the level of the material world, therefore all of his wisdom has the mark of the curse of man's own fallenness.
In addition to earthly, man's wisdom is unspiritual or fleshly. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, we learn the fleshly man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. All of the feelings, impulses, appetites of the worldly man are defined by the fallen, corrupted world system that is run by the diabolical one. And, man is unaware of his imprisoned state with the devil in control.
In addition to earthly and unspiritual, man's wisdom is demonic. This is the only place in the whole New Testament where this word appears in adjective form. This means man's wisdom is influence by demons who themselves are captive to the same kind of evil system of which man is also captive. Ultimately, man's wisdom is spawned by the influence of Satan who in the garden promised a wisdom foreign to the wisdom of God. Satan always promises freedom from God. He promises that we can be God, being in the know, apart from God. What makes human wickedness so devastating is that man is smart and wicked, at the same time. And, the combination is deadly.
Satan's wisdom leads man into arrogance, immorality, self-sufficiency, and self-dependency. In fact, when God's Spirit and people, are taken out of this world, at the Rapture, all hell will break loose for seven years because evil will no longer be restrained by the presence of God's Spirit in this world. At that time, immorality and evil will be fully unleashed, and this world will be miserable to live in.
In v.16 of today's passage we read, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."
Chaos and disorder will rule the world. Earthly wisdom will never produce harmony, love and security because it is antithetical to God and His ways. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 5, the flesh brings with it destruction. For those not right with God, there is no ability to love like God, there is no intimacy with anyone else, there is no real fellowship, no harmony, and no peace.