The reason why James does not say, “If any of you lack wisdom, read your bible,” is because the bible does not reveal all there is to know about God and about how to do life. Simply put, the bible does not have all the answers. This does not mean that it is inadequate or insufficient. It just means that there is more to know than what the bible provides. Besides, the bible was not meant to have a cookie-cutter answer for every possible circumstance – that was not God’s aim in giving us his inspired word.
Proof: how many of you will turn to “Thus Saith Google” in the next 7 days, attempting to put real facts and figures together so that you can make a wise decision? Why not condemn research altogether and just read your bible? And why not just google what we need to know instead of asking God?
At this moment, I’m having a very, very smart man do something for me – and he’s worth every penny I’m going to pay him. He does not know the Lord, and could not tell you where Genesis is in the bible. And the knowledge that he has in a particular area – there is not a whisper of it in the bible. But . . . it is wisdom that says to me, “Ivan, you’re as dumb as a hammer in this area. You should seek out a reputable source of knowledge so that this pressing issue does not blow up in your face.”
Let’s put this all together:
1. Smarts is not the same thing as Wisdom. Know-How is not the same thing as Know-When and Know-Why. My hired friend has know-how. But I needed the Lord’s wisdom to know that. I needed the Lord to help me through this as I had to vet out good sources of help from the bad sources.
2. If you are not asking God for wisdom in how to persevere through a pressing issue, you are robbing yourself of one of the means of successful Christian living. It’s actually arrogance and pride in the heart that believes you can navigate your trials without asking God for on-the-spot wisdom. What hubris does it take to go throughout your life, saying to yourself, “I’ll go to this place, for this purpose, for this amount of time, to accomplish this outcome” (James 4:13-17) – without any feeling of inadequacy of knowledge, and without any acknowledgement that the Lord is sovereign over one’s life? As one reader commented to me on this subject,
“The trials of life that James mentions in 1:2 are a means that God uses to show us our inadequacy in dealing with our earthly struggles – thus driving us to prayer and asking God for His Wisdom to live appropriately and persevere in any circumstance.”
3. Read James again from this angle: His entire letter is the application of Scripture. It is not enough for James to quote a few verses here and there, he actually practices what he preaches. He’s providing godly wisdom on how to negotiate the application of faith that really works itself out in every day circumstances. So much so, that he challenges the false assumption that if you say you have the faith that saves, but not the every day practical and wise works of perseverance that follow faith, then you are deceived: you don’t have the faith that actually saves you from sin.
This is a good place to conclude:
I need daily-living wisdom from God so that as I read his Word, hear sound advice from those within the faith (Prov. 15:22) and those without (Matt. 5:45), I can make some sense out of the presses and stresses that are refining my faith (James 1:2-4). My God is much bigger than the Word that he gave me. This does not diminish the authority of his Word, but points me to the Author of what is written.
Well I was way off. Guess I need to pray for more Wisdom!
no – not way off. Just thinking very deeply. But even then . . . you found your way to the answer the more you thought and wrote. This blew me away when in seminary, Dr. Doriani (who now has his commentary on James published with P&R Publishing), showed us that James, the half-brother of Jesus simply used Jesus’ sermon on the mount to write a practical ethic of wisdom that mirrors what Jesus already said. Meaning, the Sermon on the Mount, i.e., the Word of God is not enough. You must go to God to flesh out what is not written. God knows much more than what he gave us in his Word. ivan