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The Wisdom of James

September 17, 2007

The brother of Jesus offers these words of wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask from God who gives generously to all and not finding fault it will be given to him.” Sounds like a great offer, the wisdom of God just for the asking. However, this promise falls after a demanding verse about seeking joy in suffering, knowing that our trials and temptations can produce perseverance, maturity and wholeness.

I have often read this verse as a promise from God to help me figure things out when life gets complicated. Wisdom for hard times, as though all I needed was a divine download from heaven to problem solve my way out of trouble. This doesn’t really square with the earlier command to persevere through hard times. What gives?

I have read this promise intellectually and out of context. Though God can and has offered downloads of intellectual discernment for those who ask, this promise of wisdom offers much more. God wants to form, not only our thoughts but also our hearts. In Proverbs, a book James was clearly conversant with, wisdom is the opposite of foolishness. Foolishness is not just acting stupidly but immorally. Wisdom is the antidote to immorality. It forms character by changing the heart.

Intellectually, I retreat from a verse that tells me to persevere in suffering, to find joy in it. But if I possess wisdom, I will see the good design of a loving God in my trials and temptations. Instead of harming or breaking me, suffering can strengthen and mature me, if I accept the wisdom of God.

Paul wrote that “all the riches of wisdom and knowledge take up residence in Christ Jesus.” When we ask God for wisdom, we are asking for Christ; we are asking Jesus to not only correct our thinking about life, but change our affections and actions regarding God and his providence. God wants to generously give us Christ in our sufferings and the character of God (beauty, truth, patience, love) for our foolishness. Where there is brokenness, Wisdom offers wholeness. All we need to do is ask and trust in his good promise.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    September 17, 2007 8:53 am

    Thanks for this post. i was thinking about this very topic this morning. How true this post is.

    To quote Og Mandino “Just as any gem is polished by friction, I am certain to become more valuable through this days adversities…”

    How I look back on my own life and now, through aquired wisdom and the grace of God, the circumstances and events I once cursed God for I offer praise and thanks.

  2. Richard permalink
    September 17, 2007 4:41 pm

    To quote Billy Joe Shaver:

    “I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord,
    But I’m gonna be a diamond some day…”


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