Are you lacking wisdom? What is wisdom? Let’s find out!
James 1:5 states, “5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and [h]without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James tells us one can ask God for wisdom and it will be given to them. What kind of wisdom though? Wisdom to decide if you should take that job offer? Wisdom to decide if you should move somewhere new? Wisdom to decide to marry someone? These are questions that can’t be answered in this verse alone.
James 1:5 in context
Context is like the sun. It shines a bright light that helps you see everything. When you see everything, you get the full picture of what’s in front of you. Before verse 5, James talks about trials (temptations) that test our faith and help produce endurance. Endurance works perfection in us, and it makes us complete and lacking in nothing.
It’s interesting verse 5 has the word “if” in that verse. If… any of you lacks wisdom. Meaning maybe you’re not. Maybe your endurance is giving you enough wisdom in your life right now. But, as James said, if we are lacking, we can ask. And he continues saying we must ask with no doubt, and have faith we’ll receive it.
What wisdom is James talking about?
So what is the wisdom that James is talking about? That’s the million dollar question. James gives us clues in the third chapter.
James 3:13-17 states, “13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and [i]selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, [j]natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and [k]selfish ambition exist, [l]there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, [m]reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. ”
What is wisdom associated with here? First of all it’s associated with good behavior and deeds. It’s also associated with purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good fruits, and being unwavering. It is not associated with bitter jealousy, self ambition, disorder, and every evil thing.
What is being contrasted here? Think about it. How do all the things associated with wisdom, contrast with all the things associated with the earthly, the natural, and the demonic? While you think about that, let me give you some Greek definitions to understand the meaning of these words better.
Pikros (bitter) – harsh
Zēlos (jealousy) – envious rivalry
Eritheia (selfish ambition) – “This same word was “found before NT times only in Aristot., Polit. 5, 3 p. 1302b, 4; 1303a, 14, where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” (BDAG). Paul exhorts the church to be one in the mind of Christ not putting self forward or being selfish (Phl 2:3). Jam 3:14 speaks against having selfishness or self-promoting in your heart” (Imagine if our politicians believed in not doing things this way)
Hagos (pure) – pure from every fault, immaculate
Eirēnikos (peaceable) – loving peace
Epieikēs (gentle) – equitable, fair, mild, gentle
Eupeithēs (reasonable) – Easily obeying, compliant
Eleos (mercy) – of uncertain affinity, compassion
Adiakritos (unwavering) – without dubiousness, without ambiguity, without uncertainty
Anypokritos (without hyporcrisy) – unfeigned, undisguised
The contrast we see with wisdom from above vs the earthly is character. Godly character vs evil character. The wisdom James is talking about us asking for if we’re lacking is in exercising Godly character. Reflecting good behavior, doing good deeds, being pure, being peaceable, being gentle, being reasonable, being merciful, being unwavering, and being without hypocrisy.
As James said before encouraging to ask for wisdom, all of us are being perfected by endurance through our temptations in being complete in our faith. And the wisdom God will give you if you are lacking in it and ask for it, is the wisdom of exercising your faith closer to completion and perfection.
Peace to you all in Christ.