Is it wise to be bitterly envious of other people’s possessions, talents, or good looks? Is it wise to be selfishly ambitious—and then brag about what your ambition brings you?
A passage in the Bible actually seems to call such attitudes wise. James used the word wisdom to describe “bitter envy and self-seeking” (3:14-15). That’s surprising, because we normally equate wisdom with something good. But James used the word in a specific context. The source of this wisdom, he pointed out, is evil. It doesn’t come “from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.” It is the wisdom that leads to immoral decisions about how life should be lived.
This kind of “wisdom” is all around us. Bitter envy and selfish ambition threaten many of our institutions and destroy relationships. Society pays the price for this twisted thinking at all levels, for it always leads to “confusion and every evil thing” (v.16).
The prophet Isaiah said, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes” (Isa. 5:21). As believers in Christ, we must pursue a higher wisdom—the wisdom that comes from God. It is pure, peaceable, and gentle. It is merciful and without hypocrisy (Jas. 3:17). Ask God for that kind of wisdom. Is there any doubt which wisdom is better?
The wisdom from above flies in the face
Of what the world holds in death's embrace;
Willing to yield, yet resolutely pure
And peaceable, God's wisdom will endure. —Gustafson
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. —Proverbs 16:25