This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (ESV)
There are two kinds of wisdom. There is wisdom that has its source in God. It is meek. It is not loud and self-serving. It is not boastful. It is pure. The results of that wisdom is evidenced by godly conduct. God's people who truly have wisdom that they received from God demonstrate that wisdom with godly character.
Today's verse describes the other kind of wisdom. Earthly wisdom. Before going further, consider the wisdom that you commonly hear in our world. The wisdom of man has produced doctors attempting to convince us that slaughtering a child in a mother's womb is a woman's right. Man's wisdom has produced a view of cosmology that is absent of God's existence. Humanistic philosophy has been behind mass genocide and torture of millions.
Earthly wisdom is not really wisdom at all. James describes earthly wisdom as unspiritual and demonic. In the previous verse we read that this earthly wisdom expresses itself in selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is very simple to see the distinction in the two types of wisdom. Godly wisdom seeks to glorify God. Earthly wisdom seeks to glorify man.
It is important that in the context of the church we have discernment. There will be people who attempt to show that they are wise. If they are pushing their agenda for their own glory you know one thing. Their wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. If they humbly offer suggestions with the ultimate goal of giving God glory you need to listen to the godly wisdom they are providing.
Which kind of wisdom is evident in your life? Is it godly wisdom? People will know it because of your humble approach. If the wisdom in your life is earthly, it is deadly. Thankfully, we can repent of our earthly wisdom, and receive godly wisdom, just for the asking.