14 “But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth. 15 This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal).” James 3:14-15 Amplified Bible
There is a wisdom that comes from the natural mind. It is the logic of this life and it comes from the training of life experience and the training and influence of others in our lives. Then there is the wisdom that comes from the Lord and that wisdom is most often at odds with the wisdom of this world. Let me give you an obvious example of this. This world tells us that we need to think of ourselves first because no one else is going to. Everyone is out there for what they can get and so you must look out for yourself at all times.
To the natural mind that does make perfect sense right? We have all experienced disappointment when we trust others only to find out they never really cared about us, but were using us to further their own position and standing in life. When that happens the training of the world says, take care of yourself first because no one else will. While that may be logical it is also totally at odds with the standards Jesus has given us in His Word. His example and expectation are that we would consider the needs of others first and not worry about our own needs. After all, we are trusting Him to meet all of our needs in this life faithfully.
The verses above show us that it is pride and arrogance to work and worry only about self and the matters that concern us directly. This is selfish ambition and it is a form of rivalry because you are placing yourself in a position ahead of others for the blessings and answers of the Lord. This attitude leads us away from the truth (that can’t be helpful in our own pursuits) and causes us to ultimately embrace the wisdom of the world which as the verse shows us is, well, devilish! If I ever wonder why I may not be experiencing His victory and wisdom in my life it may be because I have positioned myself before the superficial wisdom that is devilish.
J Todd Hostetler