Who can resist an invitation to gain wisdom? Not just any wisdom, we are talking about wisdom from on high. The words of James, if we heed them, will change our life. Before we begin let me remind you, God always keeps His promises.
Wisdom – v.5
On the heels of spiritual trials James addresses, in a round about way, the fact that we make dumb mistakes that can also cause pain. In such cases we should seek for wisdom not to repeat our errors. In verse 5 we are plainly told that if we will ask for wisdom God will provide. You read the verse and it is as clear as it can be; God is just waiting for us to ask. We need to follow the procedure for wisdom: first we build our knowledge; once we have knowledge wisdom is what we use to apply that knowledge into good decisions.
Let’s pretend that it is pouring the rain outside right now. Knowledge gives us facts: it’s raining outside. What if we want to go out? Here is where wisdom comes in: we decide do we want to go out or do we need to go out? If we need to go out then wisdom helps us dress for the weather and look for an umbrella. If it was just a want to go then wisdom is also used to decide if getting wet is worth the trouble. When you get wet you could catch cold or you could slip and fall. We use wisdom to make this decision. We go through the same process for spiritual matters. God promises here if we will ask for it God will grant us wisdom to make good spiritual choices that keep us from making dumb mistakes. God will not force us to make the right choice but He will give us the wisdom to discern a good choice from a bad one. Again, as it says here, we have to ask for wisdom. Is there a catch? No!
How to Ask – v.6-8
I said there is no catch but there is a procedure. James instructs us on how to ask God for help, in this specific case asking for wisdom. We are directed in the first part of verse 6 to ask expecting, or as it says “ask in faith”. We must keep this in context: we are talking about asking for and receiving spiritual wisdom. God wants us to have spiritual wisdom so when we ask we are to believe in our heart that God will grant our request. We must trust in God’s promises.
The first part of this verse does not teach if we ask in faith we get anything we want. Clearly in scripture we are taught that we can ask for the wrong things and will not receive them. I’m going to jump ahead a bit in James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. When we ask for spiritual wisdom, faith believing, God answers because He wants the same thing. However, if we ask for worldly things that could cause us to stray God does not answer. He ignores requests that could hurt us.
Have you ever seen a child at the grocery store begging mom for a candy bar or some such thing? Mom usually acts like she doesn’t hear the child. She ignores those requests that aren’t good for the child. Unfortunately God has to treat us that way when we ask for things that can hurt us.
The latter part of verse 6, and verses 7-8, tell us we can ask for the right things but in the wrong manner. If we do not believe God is able to provide we will not hear from Him.
Verse 8 describes the offense of asking without faith and gives these people a description, double minded. For those who try to serve God and also keep ties with the world God says they are unstable. When we hear the word unstable we know that is a serious description but that is how God sees people who say they serve God but also want to act like the world.
(A)sk, (B)elieve, and re(C)eive: the ABCs of obtaining spiritual wisdom. [Yes, I know, the third word is bad form. Collect came to mind but I still think receive relays the thought better. If you have a better synonym starting with “C” send it in. Obviously I need the help.]