If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. – James 1:5.
When we are in the midst of trials, we often reflexively cry out, “God, why me? Why does this keep going on and on?” Or, “Lord, get me out of this.” However, how many of us say, while being tested, “Lord, I need wisdom . . . Please use this trial to increase my wisdom and understanding of you, your people, and life.”? But that is exactly what James commands: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” What is this wisdom for which we are to ask? The idea becomes clear when we see what it is not.
It is not knowledge. Wisdom is far more than the accumulation of information and intellectual perception. The fact is, man, through his vast accumulation of knowledge, has learned to travel faster than sound, but displays his need of wisdom by going faster and faster in the wrong direction! Man has amassed a huge store of information about the world, but shows his abysmal lack of wisdom by failing to live any better in the world.
Wisdom, in reference to knowledge, is understanding for living. And Biblical wisdom is understanding for living which surpasses earthly wisdom. It is temporally and eternally practical. A. T. Robertson, the grand genius of Greek grammar, calls wisdom “the practical use of knowledge.” J. H. Ropes, the American theologian, describes it as “the supreme and divine quality of the soul which man knows and practical righteousness.”
The Scriptures teach that this practical wisdom is rooted in the fear/reverence of God. Job asked the question, “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12. Then, as he variously discussed its whereabouts, he said further on in verse 15, “It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price,” and similarly in verse 18, “the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.” Further, he said in verses 23-24, “God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens.” And finally he concludes in verse 28, “To man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.’”
That proclamation is a persistent motif in the Old Testament. Consider Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”
The writer of Proverbs stated:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10.
Wisdom begins with a healthy reverence for God. For the Christian, this is personally connected with Christ, “who became for us wisdom from God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30. Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of the wisdom of God, and if we know him, we receive and are changed by his wisdom.
This practical knowledge for living is a gift from God. While we have its beginning in our reverence for God, and a further endowment as we come alive in Christ, he has even more wisdom to give us, practical wisdom that will enable us to ride the trials of life to new spiritual heights.
The essence of James’ language in verse 5 is that God is just waiting for us to ask: “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.” In the original the phrase “God, who gives” graphically emphasizes giving as a grand characteristic of God and His nature. It reads literally, “let him ask the constantly giving God.” The Scriptures are replete with this facet of the character of God:
“He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 17:25.
“He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered [gave] Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” – Romans 8:32.
God is like a pitcher tilted toward his children, just waiting to pour wisdom over the trial-parched landscape of their lives, if they will but ask.
Notice how James says God gives, “to all liberally and without reproach.” God will pour wisdom over us without putting us down or demeaning us. It is easy to wear out our human benefactors after they have repeatedly given to us, but not so with God. We will never encounter divine irritation, like “I gave you a head, why don’t you use it?” or “What did you do with what I most recently gave you?” or “Have you ever truly been thankful?” Rather, His response is, “I’m so glad you asked. Here it comes!”
The “various trials” of verse 2 which come to us all are nothing less than gigantic opportunities to become wise. The geniuses among us have no head start on wisdom. If anyone has an edge, it is those who are undergoing testings with patience and fortitude.
You and I will become wise if we are open to the wisdom God offers us. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” – 1 John 5:14. We need to learn to ask for wisdom instead of getting angry and saying, “Why me?” By God’s grace let us be determined and vow to ask God for a large measure of that which he has so freely promised.