(James 1:5; 3:13-18)
Shelby G. Floyd

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Previously we have studied about the wisdom that “is not from above.” In James 3:13-18, two different kinds of wisdom were contrasted—the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below. James is fond of asking questions and making contrasts. In James 1: 5 he asked, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God?” If we need wisdom we are to go to God in prayer and the word of God. That is where it is to be found. Pray and then do everything you can through the means that God has given you to acquire wisdom.

In James 3: 13 he asked, “Is there any among you who has wisdom and understanding, let him show it by his good deeds done in humility and meekness of wisdom?”


The wisdom that is not from above is known by bitter envy and selfish ambition. James says this wisdom is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Where this wisdom prevails there will be confusion and every evil work (James 3:13-16).

Friends, we all know the problems of our world are the result of worldly wisdom. The basis of these problems is the selfish ambition of man. We have a saying, “lookout, for number one.” And “bitter envy” is a brother of “selfish ambition.” Bitter envy causes people to do about anything to obtain what someone else has. Bitter envy and selfish ambition will destroy those infected with such a worldly spirit.

It is important for us in the church to learn the lessons of the wisdom from below. We must all do everything to keep the wisdom from below out of our lives and the church. For, if we do not, there will be confusion and every evil work!


This story will illustrate the attitude of selfish ambition. There was a man riding on his horse who happened to come upon a squad of soldiers trying to move a timber. The soldiers were doing their best but could not budge the timber, as their corporal watched from his horse. The stranger asked the corporal, “Why don’t your help your men to move the timber?” “But Sir, I am a corporal,” he replied. Then the stranger got off his horse and helped the soldiers to move the timber. As he departed he shouted to the corporal, “the next time you need someone to help your soldiers to move a timber, call the commander-in-chief.” That man was George Washington!

Another humorous story illustrates the same point. John and Dave were out west on a hiking trip. They came across a mountain lion staring them in the face. As John stared at the beast, Dave quickly sat down and took his running shoes from the knapsack and took off his hiking boots. “Surely you do not think you can outrun a mountain lion,” said John. Dave replied, “All I need to do is outrun you!” Bitter envy and selfish ambition is the root of most problems in human relationships. Let it not be a part of our lives. Instead, let us seek “the wisdom from above”


“Who is wise and understanding among you, let him show it” (James 3:13)? We can demonstrate to our family, our congregation, our neighborhood, our workplace, and ourselves what kind of wisdom we have in our lives by our good actions and attitudes. We show or demonstrate whether our wisdom is from above or below by our conduct. It is interesting that the word “show” (deixato) in the original language an aorist imperative verb. This conveys the meaning of, “let your wisdom and understanding show itself right now!” This is a command of God. We are commanded to demonstrate that the wisdom we have is from above. How do we show it? The answer is by your good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. So, if we want to attract people to Christ and to the church, our deeds and actions must demonstrate to people around us, that Christ and the word of God are governing our lives, and not the standards of this world. It is by our actions that we show our wisdom. Jesus once said, “But wisdom is proved right by her actions” (Matthew 11:19). James and Jesus agree that we prove our wisdom by our actions.


The “wisdom from above” is also shown by a “certain lifestyle.” Now let us take notice of the wisdom that is from above:

James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Once a man went into a glass shop and requested of the owner all the glasses that were in the key of A. The owner replied that he did not purchase glassware for its musical qualities. Then the man took a tuning fork out of his pocket and struck the counter. All of the glasses on the shelves in the key of A responded in kind.

In the science of music there are eight steps in the scale making an octave. From Do to Do there are eight steps. Likewise, in the scale of wisdom from above there are eight steps, making an octave. Count them as listed in James 3:17! All respond to the same key—the key of heavenly wisdom. What are the qualities of heavenly wisdom?


1. First, it is PURE. In all walks of life we demand purity. We want pure water, pure air, and pure food. Christian people want spiritual and moral purity. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The wisdom of this world is not pure, but is a hodgepodge of man’s ideas. But God’s wisdom is pure and free from any worldly admixture. We can depend on it!

2. Secondly it is PEACE-LOVING. It is amazing how worldly wisdom refers to some of the conflicts between nations as “the peace process,” when in reality it is the war process. There is no peace where people love war and revenge rather than peace. But the wisdom from above is “peace-loving.” We can only be peace loving when we are first at peace with God because our sins are forgiven. Then we have peace with ourselves. When we’re at peace with God and ourselves, then we can be at peace with our neighbors. If we have sin in our lives and we are not penitent and seeking forgiveness, we are at war with God and ourselves. If that is the case, we also will be at war with others. But Christian people show the wisdom from above because they are peace loving, having been reconciled to God by Jesus Christ.

3. Next it is CONSIDERATE. It seems that in almost every walk of life today, kindness and common courtesy has been replaced by being rude and gruff. Many do not care if they hurt other people’s feelings by being unkind and inconsiderate in their attitudes and actions. The wisdom from above is not like this, but is considerate.

4. It is SUBMISSIVE. We must be teachable and obedient to God and his word. Even Christ learned submissiveness and obedience to the heavenly Father by what he suffered—he suffered because he always did the right thing (Hebrews 8: 9-10). We learn to be submissive from our parents, then our teachers, employers, and the political powers that are over us. Then, of course we must be submissive to God and those who are over us in the Lord. This is a mark of the wisdom from above.

Let us all seek “the wisdom from above” and demonstrate it by a life that pleases God and convinces our fellowman that we are genuine.*

*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon January 20, 2002, at the Heartland Church of Christ, Greenwood, Indiana. Copyright © 2008, 2019 Shelby G. Floyd All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

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