I want to take you on a trip down memory lane for a minute. Some of you may remember a famous comedian named Flip Wilson. He had a TV show in the 1970s, and on this show he had such famous characters as Geraldine Jones and Brother Leroy. He also had some famous lines, including one that ties in nicely with the reading we heard from the Book of James. That line was, “The devil made me do it!” The characters in Flip Wilson’s comedy routines often blamed the devil for leading them into trouble, and they were partially right. The devil can’t make anyone do anything, but he can definitely tempt us and influence our choices.
The devil is part of earthly wisdom, and James contrasts earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. People’s lives reflect the source of their wisdom. There is “earthly, unspiritual, devilish” wisdom that leads to “envy and selfish ambition” in the individual and “disorder and wickedness of every kind” in society. Against this, there is “wisdom from above” that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits…” Trouble arrives, he tells us, when we act based on earthly wisdom and not out of faithfulness to God.