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It isn’t just wisdom that we need.  It’s a certain kind of wisdom.  There are two kinds.  There are two very different angles of vision for seeing everything, two opposing strategies for negotiating life, as the Bible makes clear in James 3:13-18.  One wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”  That’s blunt.  The other wisdom “comes down from above.”  The former wisdom is so obvious to us, sometimes we don’t question it — for example, Matthew 16:21-23.  The latter wisdom is hard for us to adjust to, because it is “the meekness of wisdom.”  Let’s never assume that we are living life by God’s wisdom; let’s adjust to doing so — and never stop adjusting.

David Powlison, writing in CCEF Now, notes the marks of the wisdom and counsel that cannot be of God.  My summary of his excellent points:

God’s name, his specific identity, is not clarified;

Our accountability to God is not brought up;

Our sinfulness against God is not taken into account;

Suffering is not perceived as meaningful, and possibly acceptable, under God;

Jesus the Savior is ignored as inconsistent with our own myths of self-sufficiency;

God’s real forgiveness of sins is overlooked;

The Lord as our refuge and strength when life is horrible goes neglected;

Real biological and personal factors are absolutized rather than located within the larger reality of God’s purposes;

The temptations embedded in hardship — for example, despair and escapism — are not faced realistically;

The temptations embedded in prosperity — for example, ingratitude and entitlement — are not faced realistically;

The inevitability of human worship, sacred or idolatrous, isn’t even a category;

The authority of God’s will, when it goes against our own wishes, is not revered;

The privilege of missional living for God’s glory, rather than for self-glory, never comes up;

Our weakness, impasse and inability to change by our own strength are not acknowledged.

Whichever wisdom we trust and open up to makes an incalculable difference.

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4 thoughts on “Two kinds of wisdom”

  1. anonymous says:

    also: sure,sin might have some consequences,but it’s not that big of a deal; not that destructive Matt 18:8-9

    1. mel says:


      1. anonymous says:

        Please forgive me if you saw it as harmful sarcasm. I see sarcasm can = a cutting remark intended to wound. If so, hopefully then faithful are the wounds of a friend Prov 27:6a The statement is a lie I said to myself for many years until the Lord’s kindness to me.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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