Can You Tell the Difference?
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Have you ever been to the grocery store and been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of merchandise available for purchase? About 15 years ago, when my daughter was a teenager, she went on a mission trip to Haiti. Needless to say, it was a real eye-opener for her to see a nation of people living in poverty. A couple of days after she returned home, we were in the grocery store and she started to cry in the toothpaste aisle. Seemed odd, but her explanation was one I will remember forever. She told me that in Haiti, the possession of a toothbrush made you rich. Here at home, we had an entire aisle of toothbrushes and they were cheap. The inequity of it just struck her (and me.) Here where we have so much to choose from and we can become rather prideful about our choices sometimes. Advertisers make multiple billions of dollars each year trying to convince us that this product or that is by far the best. Contrary to what they would have us believe the shininess of the box is not a good indicator of the quality of the contents.
James holds up a choice for us to make as well. There are two types of wisdom; wisdom that comes from the ways of the world via Satan and wisdom that comes from God. Remarkably, they aren’t even difficult to tell apart. Worldly wisdom is dressed in the clothing of selfish ambition, jealousy, disorder, and evil. Godly wisdom is dressed in purity, peace, gentleness, reason, mercy, good works, impartiality and sincerity. Worldly wisdom can actually look appealing to our flesh. It promotes the self and puts you at the center of your own universe. Achievement of your desires and wants is the goal of this wisdom. Go and get something for yourself, for no one else is looking out for you. We recognize it easily because we see it every day. Godly wisdom wears a different outfit. The box may not be shiny. But the contents are remarkable. In the promotion of others we find peace. In placing the others needs before our own we find good works. In choosing forgiveness we find mercy. All of these things come in rather a plain brown wrapper – clearly the loveliest choice of all.