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James 3:15

ESV This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
NIV Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
NASB This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.
CSB Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
NLT For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
KJV This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
NKJV This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

What does James 3:15 mean?

In the previous verse, James warned those of us consumed with envy and selfish ambition not to think of ourselves as wise. The world usually defines success as getting whatever it is you want out of life. To do that, you have to look around and decide what you want, mostly by comparing yourself to other people. This can lead to bitter envy. Then, according to the world, you should plan to do whatever it takes to secure those desires for yourself. That requires some amount of selfish ambition.

Phrased that way, it sounds pretty bad. The point is not that all people who try to improve themselves, or to be successful, are doing something wickedly evil. The problem is in the world's definitions of wisdom and success. The skewed, un-biblical attitudes towards these are normal to our ears. As a result, we usually admire those who have followed that path to great wealth, great pleasure, or great status.

James wants to wake us up. That worldly approach to life is not true wisdom, he writes. It's not God's wisdom, It's not heaven's wisdom. In fact, what seems normal to us only because it "is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic." In other words, this "wisdom" can't help us beyond the limits of our short, physical lives. And its origin is the Devil.

This counterfeit wisdom promises to give us all the desires of our hearts. In the next verse, James will describe the actual result.
What is the Gospel?
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