James tells us there are two kinds of wisdom, wisdom from the world and wisdom from God. He also tells us how to tell the difference between the two. They stand side by side in glaring contrast in their motives and outcomes.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (Wisdom from God)
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (Wisdom of the world)
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
James names, "selfish ambition" and "bitter envy" as worldly wisdom. In our culture, who is admired? Those who get ahead, those who become rich and have many possessions. Have you heard the saying, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins?" Actually, this has probably been true of almost all cultures. No matter how they get to the top, the top people are envied and admired. How did they get there? Most likely through envy themselves and selfish ambition.
James knows this. The wisdom from God is nothing like the wisdom of the world; when you look at Jesus, you see wisdom in action. One reason people make fun of Christians is they don't understand God's wisdom. It seems foolish to them to put God and others first. But God can open anyone's eyes if they will ask Him. He gives generously to all, James says. And I love what James says next, "without finding fault."
We have a God who understands how our brains work and what we have been taught and seen in our lives. He doesn't find fault, he only asks that we come to him for true wisdom, which will result in peace and love instead of "disorder and evil."