Summary: Encouraging God’s people to seek wisdom in the storms of life.
WHERE WISDOM IS FOUND
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Wisdom is an increasingly rare commodity in modern experience. Though many people can be described as cunning, crafty and even clever, wisdom, especially godly wisdom, is so rare as to be exceptional when it is witnessed. James speaks frequently of wisdom in this brief letter, but what he describes would not necessarily be recognised as wisdom by many in our modern world.
The wisdom in view in our text would appear to be wisdom equipping an individual to respond in a godly manner to the trials of life. You will recall that James had spoken of responding with joy in knowledge of what God would permit when we enter into trials, and joy in the knowledge that God is at work as we pass through times of testing. You will recall that he especially encourages us to remember the goal of testing—perfection and wholeness.
Reacting wisely in times of trial is difficult—so difficult, that none of us will be able to so respond without godly wisdom. When trials come, as trials must come, you will need wisdom. Where will you find wisdom? James directs our attention to God.
GOD, WHO GIVES GENEROUSLY TO ALL — “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James assumes that his readers will know where to find wisdom in the storm, but he is careful to state the ultimate source of all wisdom—God. This is clearly stated in the NET BIBLE. “But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God.” VERSE FIVE is part of the same paragraph as VERSE TWO, so the first thought is continued and expanded.
When you enter a storm, when trials batter you and threaten your peace, ask God for wisdom. When you ask, you come to a God who is good, giving generously to all without reproach. James is quite definite in stating that wisdom “will be given” to the one asking. This is a promise that stands for all who seek the face of God.
There is an aspect of asking that may be overlooked. “Ask” is present tense, which conveys the thought that we are to keep on asking. The same thought is conveyed powerfully in MATTHEW 7:7, 8. The intensity of Jesus words is captured especially well in the International Standard Version of the Bible. “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who keeps asking will receive, and the person who keeps searching will find, and the person who keeps knocking will have the door opened.” Prayer is to be persistent. Faith always gives a double rap at heaven’s door.
You will no doubt recall that Jesus continued this line of instruction by asking, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” Then, He concluded with this pointed observation of the character of the Father. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” [MATTHEW 7:9-11]. God is focused on revealing goodness to His child!
Notice, especially, God’s character that James’ expressed in the opening verses of this letter. James attests that God is generous. He asserts that God does not reproach us when we confess our lack. Moreover, he avows that God will give what we ask. These three aspects of God’s character merit further careful consideration for us in this message today. Focus on the character of God as revealed in the verses immediately before us.
God is generous. James reminds us that God gives generously. The word “gives” is a participle, which would mean that James was identifying God as “the Giver,” of “the Giving God.” God continually gives, and He especially delights to give wisdom to those who ask. English translations historically have rendered the word used here, “generously.” This is an unfortunate translation.
Considering James’ choice of words, take note that the word that is translated “generously,” is what linguists identify as a hapax legomenon, that is, a word that is unique, occurring only once in a text (the New Testament, in this case). The Greek word involved comes from a root whose basic meaning is “single” or “simple.” Paul’s use of a cognate of this word clearly expresses this idea. In EPHESIANS 6:5, Paul has written, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters … with a sincere heart.” He is not urging slaves to be generous, but to serve sincerely in a way that honours the Lord. 2 CORINTHIANS 11:3 displays a similar usage of this word, with the Apostle expressing his fear that the Corinthians’ minds might be led astray from their “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”