James series – “The Litmus Test for life”
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Worldly wisdom is test-failing wisdom revealed by its roots and second by its :
- Attributes of test-failing wisdom (15)
Throughout history, man has only come up with two ways to know things. One way is by what he learns through his senses. If I pick up a shoe, I can know certain things about it by the way that it feels. By the way that it looks. By the way that it smells. If I listen really close, by the way that it sounds. And if I’m real brave or stupid, by the way that it tastes. By using my senses, I can know things but there’s a limit to what my senses and physical experience can tell me. Sure, I can use things like microscopes to help me see really tiny things like cells and molecules but even there is a limit to what I can see. My senses and experience can only take me so far. So, does that mean that if I can’t experience it, I can’t know anything about it? No this is where man’s other way of knowing things comes into play, this is where our ability to reason step in. We can’t see, smell, taste, touch or hear a number. But while we can’t experience a number, we can use our reason to know that 1 + 1 = 2. Reason is how we think we know about things like atoms and electrons and gravity and black holes. But there is even a limit to our reason. If we rely on our senses or our reason alone we will reach a point where they fail us. Don’t believe me then turn with me to Ecclesiastes 2:10. God granted Solomon the wisdom to become the wisest man in the world. But Solomon turned from God’s wisdom to worldly wisdom, sensual wisdom based on experiential knowledge. Solomon tried to use his senses to know and in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, he wrote: “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything, I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” Trying to gain wisdom through the world was like grasping at the wind. What does wind feel like when you pick it up? Nothing, because in his attempt to gaining wisdom through worldly means, all he gained was vanity. He reached a place where his experience failed him. But he also reached a place where his reason failed him because the next four verses reveal his attempt to gain wisdom by relying on his reason. Ecclesiastes 2:12-15, “So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?). 13 I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. 15 Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” James called this kind of reasoning sensual wisdom, it’s where we get the word psychology. Psychological wisdom is the wisdom that comes only from within our own little, finite, fallen minds. All of the great questions of life, all of the deep things to think about led Solomon to the same place, vanity. When Solomon turned away from God as the source of his wisdom life became miserable and meaningless. This is what modern philosophers call nihilism. The belief that nothing really matters because everything is really nothing. A purposeless product of time and chance. Vanity and vexation of spirit. It’s the kind of wisdom James defines as devilish, it’s a wisdom that destroys and brings death, ask Adam and Eve.