In James 3, James helped us see the distinction between the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of the world. One leads to peace, the other leads to strife and division. At the beginning of James 4, this same thought is carried out in powerfully evocative language – “wars, fightings, enmity.” Moving beyond the description of the origin of each type of wisdom, James continues by explaining where the regular exercise of worldly wisdom leads.
When a man lives by worldly wisdom, there is constant conflict both externally and internally. In the economy of worldly wisdom, individual greatness is the most important thing. In worldly wisdom, the goal is to be recognized by those around you as the greatest, and most intelligent, and most successful, and most impressive. In the wisdom of the world, the end is the goal, and the means will always be justified if the ends can be accomplished. By this method, men have created empires, militarily and financially, that have propelled them to greatness. But those empires were built on shrewdness and self-service. The inward lusts and desires for power were what drove these men to “make something” of themselves and to leave damage and destruction in their wake.
Similarly, in churches, some Christians strive to garner the praise and approval of others. They seek to establish “their way” and ensure a following that agrees with their desires. Sadly, this happens at the expense of unity. Using the wisdom of the world to function as a church will never end in success. In the wisdom that is from above, peace and gentleness are key, and unity is the mark of true success. The manipulative practices and alliances of Wall Street and the likes have no place in the kingdom of God. The wisdom of the world that causes strife has no place in the church.
When worldly wisdom becomes the basis of operation, James warns that there is only one possible outcome- “ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war…” A desire to mirror ones life after the world will never result in a God-honoring life, and a desire to mirror the church after the world will never result in a healthy and successful church. We must seek the wisdom of God, and not the wisdom of the world. We must never fall prey to thinking that the shrewd practices of worldly business and politics find any place in the church. The church must operate above those baser things.
Reflect: What is the difference in results between churches that use worldly wisdom and those that follow the wisdom of God?