Two Kinds Of Wisdom

SCRIPTURE: James 3:13-18, NRSV

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.


As you can see from our text, there are two kinds of wisdom: One from above [Divine][ and one from below [demonic]. One that proceeds from God [divine]. Tasker says True Wisdom and Counterfeit Wisdom. This makes sense since the devil is so good at counterfeiting. Tasker, Barclay and Wiersbe all believe that James is talking to want-to-be teachers. They believe that there has been strife, competition and rivalry in the church for teaching positions. I yield to their expertise. If there is bitter envy and jealously in a teacher’s heart, no true wisdom can be imparted.

God is not the god of confusion or disorder: they would be Satan. God is the God of peace [I Cor. 14:33, for God is a God not of disorder [author of confusion] but of peace.]

James makes it kind of easy on us by giving us the characteristics of both demonic wisdom and divine wisdom


  1. BITTER ENVY/JEALOUSLY–[v.14] Demonic wisdom is motivated by bitter envy. The Greek word for bitter means ‘harsh’, ‘virulent’ which means it is very harmful in its effects, like a contagious disease. Bitterness has the potential of showing hostility. The Greek word for ENVY/JEALOUS is very familiar, it is ‘Zelos’ from which we get the word Zealot. It can be used in a positive or negative way. Here is not good. Here it means punitive zeal, ardor but for the wrong thing. Here James is talking about envy, strife, contention and rivalry.
  2. SELFISH AMBITION–[v.14] This is one word in Greek, it means electioneering, jockeying for position, Using intrigue to gain an office or position. It is the desire to promote one’s self.
  3. BOASTFULNESS–[v.14] Pride, arrogance, to glory against, to exult over [football players], to boast one’s self to the injury of another person or thing.
  4. DISHONESTfalse to the truth [v.14]. It is for show, it is a lie, all pretense.
  5. EARTHLY–Totally void of divine inspiration. It is natural, not supernatural.
  6. UNSPIRITUAL [Sensual]– the Greek word is the root of the word ‘soul’ [living, breathing being] but used in reference to the animal world. Animals are driven by self-preservation, instinct and appetite. When we are driven by those three things, we are acting like the animals.


  1. UNDERSTANDING–[v.13]Intelligent, it knows how to use knowledge [v. 13] Rabbis were high on understanding how to use knowledge which is wisdom. The Rabbis believed that wisdom was forming the best plan and then have the understanding to execute the plan.
  2. INCARNATED–[v.13] Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. {NRSV} Divine Wisdom is shown by the manner in which we live. It is exhibited in our daily life. [Illustration: Zac in Luke 19]
  3. ACTIVE–[v.13] Divine wisdom reveals itself in deportment, behavior, attitude and good deeds. It is not passive or lazy.
  4. PURE–[V.17]  [Hagnos] from which we get the OT word for holy. Pure means chaste, modest, holy, free from carnality and full of reverence and awe.
  5. PEACABLE–[Erenikos] [v.17] Related to peace, peace loving, peaceful.
  6. GENTLE–[V.17] not the word for meekness found in versed 13 but close. This word means suitable, equitable, fair, mild.
  7. WILLING TO YIELD–William Law, “My first business is to do the will of God.” The truly wise man is forever ready to obey God. He is determined but not stubborn; always willing to listen to reason and always committed to obeying God. No human can be right all the time.
  8. MERCIFUL–Greek word eleos. The Greeks defined it as pity. In Christian team, it means much more than pity, it means mercy for a man who doesn’t deserve it. Pity is simply a feeling but mercy in the Christian sense involves deeds of kindness [Good Samaritan]. We feel pity, we show mercy.
  9. WITHOUT PARTIALITY–Unwavering {NASB} Greek word is adiakritos which means ‘undivided’. I would translate it ‘integrity’. Divine Wisdom is full of integrity. Together, solid, not duplicitous.
  10. SINCERE–Without hypocrisy. William Barclay: Divine wisdom is not a pose and never an act. It does not deal in deception for it’s own ends. It is not the wisdom which is clever at putting on disguises and concealing it real aims and motives. Divine wisdom is purely honest.


A true man of wisdom, teacher or preacher or whomever, meekly tolerate the sins of others and they do not cease to sow seeds of righteousness and peace. They strive to correct the faults of others by peaceful means. They moderate their zeal with the condiment of peace, for those who wish to be physicians to heal vices ought not to be executioners!