The epistle – or letter – of James reads less like correspondence and more like ancient wisdom literature, closely mirroring the Old Testament’s Proverbs or maybe even Ecclesiastes. James wants the Church to know, understand and engage in ‘the good life‘ or right(eous) living and minces no words in getting his message out. It’s plain to see he’s very invested in our doing life with excellence.
Hebraic’s “wisdom” is the picture of a skilled craftsman taking raw materials and fashioning them into a valuable commodity. The word is more practical than intellectual – having more to do with the ‘art of living‘ (skillfully).
Wisdom anthropomorphically says,
Whoever finds me finds life…and obtains favor from the LORD.
– Prov 8:35
The goal of wisdom is to produce character.
“Wisdom is for the business of living, not for an elitist for the pursuit of scholarship.”
Wisdom literature’s goal isn’t necessarily dropping knowledge on you so much as it is offering the very revelation that will lead the reader to do better, because, well, there’s certainly ample room for that, amiright?
People, generally, haven’t yet discovered the path of perpetual success – or living well. And, by the way and FYI, ‘success’ has less to do with moolah and more to do with shalom. Wisdom writings are heaven-bent on offering wholeness of being, and – for our spiritual purpose – living as Jesus lived, shrouded in shekinah.
So when James says,
Hey! You need wisdom? God is thrilled to offer you some. He’s got it in abundance and wants to share it with you. So ask!”
That verse inspires hope. It tells us that God is a gazillionaire in the wisdom market and wants to make you His full partner! It’s like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg offering you the holy grail of their expertise. Paul says we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) and we learn from his Philippian letter that the mind of Christ led Him to become the Ultimate Man (Philp 2:5-11).
So you come out of James 1:5 feeling like you can’t lose. You’ve got it made in the shade. Sky’s the limit. All because you’ve learned the secret component of the good life is wisdom and the way to get it…which is to simply ask the One who owns it all and happens to hold it loosely.
Are you sensing a “but”?
You should. And for good reason: the next verse is your “but”.
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
We love to take verses out of context, don’t we? And this one is certainly in that category. While it can be used in other certain applications of our spiritual life, the context – always interpret scripture in context – is wisdom and how to get it.
The rosy lenses of verse 5 give way to the overcast gloom of the next verse. James is warning us:
Unless you say ‘amen’ to the LORD’S strategy (will, counsel, etc.) and plan on walking it out, don’t bother asking for His wisdom. If there’s anything in you that wants to weigh God’s will against your own, if you’re holding onto a Plan ‘B’ in case you don’t like His offering, don’t even bother asking. He won’t help you.
Sorry. I said it.
Well, James did.
You don’t think God knows our motives? That He is somehow fooled by our evasiveness? That He’s going to waste His breath when He knows full well our capacity to evaluate and vacillate? It’s likely this is the very thing that causes many to lament, “Why doesn’t God speak to me? Why can’t I hear Him?”
Dear saint, God has your back. Don’t be afraid to seek His wisdom, thinking He somehow only wants to make you miserable by what He prescribes. The only thing you’ll lose is that which will destroy you. Remember, “whoever finds Me (Wisdom), finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD.”
Ask Him. Your shalom is waiting. Your good life is waiting.
But if you’re all ‘Meh -‘ and take it or leave it?