Meditations in James: 5 : Asking for Wisdom
Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Wisdom isn’t something that is much talked about today. ‘Wise’ men are either relegated to the Christmas story or to fairy tales. Yet wisdom is something that is spoken about a number of times in the Bible, in fact over two hundred times! For instance the psalmist said, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psa 90:12) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psa 111:10). But wisdom isn’t some mystical thing; it is very simply “the knowledge of how to…” so when the psalmist spoke about the fear or awesome respect for the Lord, he meant that this was the start for how to live a right life.
Bearing in mind that James was speaking to the scattered church, the church that lived out in the world away from the strength and security of Jerusalem, knowing how to cope with life would have been a very real concern for them – and us. Of course there has to first of all be an awareness that we are called to be different before we have a need or concern for how to be different. The Christian who is like a chameleon, blending in with the word and doing nothing in service of their King will have no need of wisdom. It is only when you realize your calling to be different and your calling to serve, that you become aware of a need to know how to live, how to serve. For myself, I don’t think there is anything I ask for as much as wisdom: “Lord how I am supposed to do this? How am I to go about doing that?” Not only is it the thing I ask for most, it is the thing for which I find I get the most answers to prayer.
Why is that? It is because, as James says, God gives generously to all without finding fault. Notice some of the words in that verse. Generously: a generous person isn’t stingy or half-hearted in the way they give. To the contrary, they give freely and without restrictions, they give lavishly. The apostle Paul spoke of “the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Eph 1:7,8). When God gives, He gives in abundance. If we have had a poor upbringing we may still have a feeling of poverty where we are always thinking in limited terms, but this doesn’t apply to God. He delights in giving in abundance. The apostle John said the same thing: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us” (I Jn 3:1). God pours out liberally in His giving to us, and that is true of the wisdom He gives to us.
Probably the best example of this is Daniel in the Old Testament: “I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom” (Dan 2:23) God had given him the knowledge of how to respond to the king’s dream. Listen how Daniel came to be referred to: “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods.” (Dan 5:11). How did Daniel come to have such a reputation? “Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Dan 2:17,18). He knew God had the answer and he asked God for it! You find the same sort of thing with Nehemiah: “Then I prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh 2:4). How simple those words are, but how little they occur in so many of our lives. When we know that our Lord is generous in His giving, then we will ask of Him.
But there’s another significant word: all. Simple, but significant, because there are some of us who feel we are so insignificant that God wouldn’t turn up for us. If we say that we deny His word and we deny His love. No, He wants to give generously to ALL and that includes every one of us. The only criteria is that we ask and believe.
The final words to note are the final phrase: without finding fault. Because some of us grew up with parents who were constantly critical of us, we think God is the same. No He’s not! When Paul said, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), he meant it. God isn’t constantly looking to criticize us, put us down and make us feel bad. To the contrary, He is for us (Rom 8:31) which means everything He does seeks to bless and build us and help us succeed in our lives.
If we need wisdom, it means that we are in circumstances that are beyond us, but God realizes that and doesn’t chide us, because they are not beyond Him and He delights in showing us how to walk through the particular difficulty. Whatever it is – knowing how to cope with a difficult relationship, knowing how to cope with the children, knowing how to do school or college work, knowing how to cope with your job – God has the answer and all we need do is ASK Him for it. Check out the day. What are the things that concern you in it? Ask Him about them. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to deal with them – and then watch for the thoughts you start finding you are having! Be a receiver of God’s wisdom. Enjoy living!