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Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

Power to Destroy: Fire and Poison

The Origin

Earthly wisdom is man-made. Man-made wisdom may seem successful for a time but is destined to fail since it doesn’t come from God. In Genesis 11 the building of the tower of Babel seemed to be a great success for man’s wisdom, but it ended in failure and confusion. In Genesis 12 it seemed wise for Abraham to go to Egypt during a famine, but the results were disastrous.

In 1 Samuel King Saul thought it wise to lend his armor to protect David against Goliath, but God had other plans. In the Gospels the Disciples’ wisdom thought it best to dismiss the crowd to allow them to find food, Jesus fed them all with just a little. In Acts, earthly wisdom saw it best to try and sail for Rome in spite of heavenly warnings which ended in shipwreck.

The problem with Earthly wisdom is its origin–Sin cursed man.

Earthly wisdom’s origin?

Ephesians 2 teaches that the Christian has 3 enemies: The World – Earthly, The Flesh – Sensual, and The Devil – Devilish. This is the origin of Earthly Wisdom. We should be careful to not confuse knowledge & wisdom. The World has much knowledge and we all benefit from it. But as for Wisdom, there is very little “Earthly”. Earthly Wisdom that man discovers, he knows little about what to do with it.

Henry David Thoreau warned that we had “improved means to unimproved ends.” It is almost as if the entire goal of acquiring Earthly wisdom is to eliminate a need for God. I am very encouraged anytime I meet someone who is discovering more and more Earthly Wisdom and/or Knowledge for the end of using it to God’s glory.

The Operation

What are the evidences of false wisdom?

  • Bitter envying

Discontented or resentful longing. Envy produces selfish ambition & zeal.  This ties in with James 3:1. The wisdom of the world says: “Promote yourself. You’re as good as the others, maybe better!” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Sad to say, there is a great deal of selfish, carnal promotion among God’s people. Even the Apostles argued over who was the greatest.

Today’s society has disguised the sin here by adding, “for the glory of God” to the end of it. I may have selfish ambition, but in the end, it is for the glory of God. This is wrong.  This is a sin. This is the operation of Earthly Wisdom. We should be zealous in the things of God, but we must be sure that our motives are right. Do we rejoice when others succeed, or do we have secret envy and criticism? Do we feel burdened when others fail, or are we glad?

  • Strife in your hearts 

Angry or bitter disagreement. This word means “party spirit,” as in “political party.” It was used by the Greeks to describe a politician out canvassing for votes. The world’s wisdom says, “Get all the support you can!” Ask people if they are for you or against you! This creates rivalry and division in the church.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than [more important than] themselves” (Phil. 2:3).

  • Glory not 

Boasting–Pride loves to boast, and nothing is prouder than earthly wisdom. When heavenly wisdom is at work, there is a sense of humility and submission, and God gets all the glory. There is no desire to compare with any other Christian, only Christ, and compared with Him, all of us have a long way to go!

  • Lie not 

Deceit– “Lie not against the truth.” Notice a pattern? The pattern is not difficult to understand. First, there is a selfish ambition that leads to party spirit and rivalry. In order to “win the election” we must resort to boasting, and boasting usually involves lies! A man’s life is not read in his press releases; it is read by the Lord in his heart.

The Outcome

Earthly wisdom produces trouble

Envy, strife, confusion, evil work. It does not appear that God was at work in that assembly. Wrong thinking produces wrong living. One reason the world is in such a mess is because men have refused to accept the wisdom of God. The word translated “confusion” means “disorder that comes from instability.” It is related to “unstable” in James 1:8 and “unruly” in James 3:8. Jesus used this word to describe the convulsions of the world in the last days. Luke 21:9 “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.”


The most important thing we can do in our local churches is to measure our ministries by the Word of God, not by the wisdom of men. The many battles among Christians, the church splits, the absence of purity and peace, all suggest that something is wrong. Perhaps that “something” is the absence of the wisdom of God.

Pastor Chance Strickland

Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN