Vol. 11 No. 3 March 2009
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.“Wisdom” as used in this phrase is saying, “if anyone falls short of wisdom.” James did not say “If any of you lack knowledge…” There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is gained by reading, study, going to school, receiving instruction from a teacher, experiences, etc. Knowledge is knowing the facts. Wisdom is the ability to apply these facts to practical living. A.T. Robertson says it is “a banking figure, to have a shortage of wisdom (not just knowledge gneoseos, but wisdom sophias, the practical usage of knowledge” (Word Studies in the NT vol 4, 13).
Why might the readers fall short of wisdom and need to pray for it? In the context, James has raised the specter of “various temptations” such as poverty, persecution and trials that test our faith (3). He is telling his readers they can overcome these tests and temptations of life by the wisdom that only God is able to provide. When the trials of life are sore and long since have ceased to be joy (2), when our endurance has worn thin (3-4), let him ask of God for wisdom (5). If we are going to overcome temptation, and remain steadfast in Christ, we will need wisdom.
James says the way to attain this spiritual wisdom is to “ask God.” We are to ask God by prayer (Mark 11:24). James is not instructing us to pray for wisdom in a generic manner, but rather in a specific one. We are to ask God for wisdom to overcome the present trial we are facing so we can remain steadfast. Our prayers must also be in conformity to the overall outlook of Christianity. Our life is to be in harmony with the God of heaven to whom we pray. It is not to be a prayer that reflects a Afaith [email protected] attitude—praying and not doing. Prayer is to be in harmony with the study, meditation, reflection and application of God’s Word.
It should be noted for all Bible students that wisdom is not given to us today in a miraculous way as in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:8). Wisdom was a spiritual gift in the early church, but this is not what James has in mind. God gives us wisdom in our trials by allowing us to keep our focus on His Son, and following in His steps. God will give us wisdom as we need it if we ask of Him. Remember, in overcoming our temptations, we gain steadfastness and wisdom. God will help us through if we will lean on Him. (See Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13).
James promises that God “upbraideth not” (does not rebuke or chastise for asking), but on the contrary, will give it “liberally” (generously, bountifully), with the added assurance “it shall be given him.” God gives to all men liberally (bountifully), and upbraids (chides, rebukes) not, and it shall be given him.God is happy to answer our request for wisdom. When God gives to us, He does not do so in a reproachful or resentful manner. James may be comparing the reaction that men have in asking for help from other men who must in some censorious way rebuke and give insult and injury to the one asking for help.
But let him ask in faith nothing wavering. Those who pray to God for wisdom must believe He will answer. There can be no doubting (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:12). Abraham is an example of great faith that did not falter when tested (Genesis 22:2-12; Romans 4:20). Because of his faith in God, Abraham is called the friend of God (James 2:23). Abraham trusted in the promises of God, and so must we. (See Hebrews 11:1, 6.) “For he that wavers is like the wave of the sea and tossed.”James uses a wave of the sea to describe the doubter. The wave is constantly in motion, going back and forth, to and fro, wherever the wind may blow it. So it is with the doubter. He is unstable. He lacks faith. He lacks steadfastness. He leans more to his doubts than to his faith.
Brethren, in harsh economic times, in times when Christianity is mocked and scorned and persecution looms on the horizon, for wisdom to endure and hope let us “ask of God.”