By Neal Scoggins

A tale of two Sophias 

By Neal Scoggins

In the movie “The Color Purple,” which was released in December of 1985, there was a character named Sophia. As you look closely at that movie, you will see a slow change in the attitude and impact of the character Sophia. It was almost as if there were two different Sophias in that movie. A tale of the two Sophias is what I like to call it. This tale of two Sophias, in my mind, is a small but impactful undercurrent in the overall movie.  

The early Sophia was hard, demanding and brash. She was physically large with an attitude to match. It was her way or no way. It was all about Sophia. However, after a shouting match with the mayor’s wife, which was a cultural no-no (Sophia was African American and the mayor’s wife was an Anglo woman), this Sophia found herself in prison. Just like that, one uncontrolled encounter was the beginning of her transition. 

While “The Color Purple” explored the life of several other characters, it never abandoned Sophia. Later in the movie, Sophia comes out of prison with a similar stature but humble actions. She was the same, but different.  

Scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is “nothing new under the sun.” The 1985 movie was not the first place where we see a comparison of these two Sophias. James, in the third chapter of his letter to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” does a comparison of his own of these two Sophias.  

You see, the Greek word that James uses for wisdom is the word “sophia,” meaning the ability to perceive God’s hand in human circumstances. In other words, wisdom is sensing God’s hand and submitting to God’s way. As believers, we must learn to operate in God’s wisdom as opposed to the world’s wisdom.  

These two “sophias” bring to light a radical concept; not all wisdom is godly. When we urge people to walk in wisdom, which “sophia” are we bringing to the table? This philosophical blind date has the potential of going very bad or extremely well.  

According to James 3:14-16, worldly wisdom is earthly and sinful. James calls this wisdom “unspiritual and demonic.” In the world of simple chemistry, some toxic substances are manifested based on environments that produce a “bubbling up” that creates dangerous results. If we look at the attitudes of selfish ambition and revenge that are the bubbling up of that bad “sophia,” we see THAT “sophia” is all about herself. She’s big, bold, brash, and deadly. James calls her demonic. We may believe we have a RIGHT to revenge, but THAT wisdom comes from the world. That’s the “sophia” that gets thrown into the prison of bad attitude, arrogance, and sin.  

However, what we should imitate is the wisdom of God. You see, everyone is attracted to that “sophia.” James calls that “sophia” “peace-loving, considerate, submissive… and sincere.” (James 3:17). Of the two “sophias,” let’s long to imitate the sincere one.  

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