Three Wisdoms (Part 1)
Any attempt to contribute to positive change in the complex challenges facing the world today requires wisdom. Where, however, does one find this wisdom? The Bible describes three sources of wisdom, two of which James 3:13-18 elaborates.
James says this first wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” It is characterized by “bitter envy and selfish ambition,” and results in “disorder and every evil practice.”
Such wisdom surrounds us and finds some place in the heart of each of us. It can be disguised as healthy competition. In the end, however, it reveals itself in the corruption and conflict that infect every pursuit of power that seeks to advance one group’s cause at the expense of others. It is reflected in the creed of the infamous Gordon Gecko, who proclaims “Greed is good” because it fuels a distorted version of progress that undermines the deeper dimensions of human nature.
This type of wisdom finds God useful only if he can be turned into a servant of selfish human interests. Because it offers pragmatic results – even if the gains are short-term and disproportionately serve those in power – many seek a piece of the action. Twice Proverbs speaks of the kind of path that “appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
In light of the attractiveness and apparent rightness of this false wisdom, it has a broad appeal. Both Proverbs and James address their warnings to believers in God who face the temptation to depart from “the road less traveled” to which God has called them.
Those who seek deep and meaningful change inevitably face times of defeat, disappointment, and discouragement. At those times the allure of familiar (but ungodly) ways can easily take over. Alternatively, one who begins with a noble goal can allow success to shift the focus from the goal to self-promotion. In both cases worldly wisdom wins.
Surely there must be a better source of wisdom. In fact, there are two.