Wednesday, 7 August 2019
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. James 3:15
The previous verse spoke of having bitter envy and self-seeking in one’s heart. James now states that those things are opposed to that which is heavenly or godly. Rather, the opposite is true. He says, “This wisdom does not descend from above.”
The translation surely fails to convey the intended meaning. By saying “This wisdom,” it is implying that it is a type of wisdom, when it is, in fact, just the opposite. Rather, there is an article before “wisdom” and the Greek appears to more correctly read, “That is not the wisdom which comes down from above” (Weymouth NT). One way to retain the truth while maintaining the same basic structure of the NKJV would be to emphasize the word “wisdom” as the NIV does. They say, “Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven.” Thus it sets it apart as actually not being a type of wisdom.
Either way, there is a need to show that calling such an attitude “wisdom” is actually profaning the idea of the true wisdom which comes from God. What James referred to in the previous verse does not come from above, but it rather is “earthly.”
The idea here is that which is temporary and fading. That which is heavenly is eternal and will never change. When one looks to the earthly, he will grasp onto that which can benefit him “right now.” There is nothing truly long-term because this life is short and uncertain. Therefore, that which is earthly is naturally self-seeking.
He next says that it is “sensual.” This means that what is conveyed finds its source in what will fill the unspiritual, carnal desires of man rather than that which is logical and/or spiritual. It comes about from one’s inappropriate passions rather than a proper attitude concerning what is godly.
James then finishes with the thought that it is “demonic.” It is an adjective found only here in Scripture. It signifies that which resembles a demon or which is influenced by a demon. As Albert Barnes notes, “There may be indeed talent in it, but there is the intermingling of malignant passions, and it leads to contentions, strifes, divisions, and ‘every evil work.’”
One can see the three divisions of body, soul, and spirit here. The “spirit,” is not so much a separate entity, but it is the connection of the body and soul to God, or a lack of such a connection. If one is rightly connected to God, there will be no influence of the devil or demons. When he is not, there can be attacks upon the person, even a saved person.
Life application: Really think on those you look to for spiritual guidance. What are their motivations? You can’t always tell, and most people would not intentionally follow a deceiver. But it is right to evaluate each person carefully. Do you perceive them as pure and selfless? Would they be willing to stand in the same position if the money stopped flowing in or if there was no notoriety? We need to be extremely careful about who we follow and why.
Good looks fade, bad financial decisions bring about disaster, and political winds change. Preaching the gospel may go from something desirous and lucrative to something punishable by law. Those who stood in the pulpit because of selfish ambition will certainly fall away under conditions like these.
Likewise, envy can also motivate our clergy’s decisions. If one perceives others in higher positions, nicer locations, or closely aligned with political leaders, he may engage in unspiritual talk about them. James says this attitude certainly doesn’t come from heaven, but from a love of the world.
Those who are in spiritual positions may be motivated from an unspiritual source. Instead of being inspired by a love of God, their hearts may be motivated by the lure of the devil.
Stand back and evaluate those you follow from time to time and make sure their guidance is biblical and godly and that the source of their motivation hasn’t been corrupted by money or fame. If you see them taking a bad turn, talk to them about it. Everyone needs accountability and no one is above temptation.
Heavenly Father, today we take the time to pray for the men who are our pastors, preachers, and teachers of the word. We pray that those we turn to for spiritual guidance will be godly men. Keep them from the wiles of the devil, from envy of others, and from selfish deceit. Fill them with Your wisdom and pure hearts for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus. Amen.