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James 1:5

James 1:5-8 “5 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. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:5 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ei [1487] if, whether, that (conditional participle) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat humon [5216] you, your, yourselves leipo [3007] leave, fail, absent, lack, destitute sophia [4678] wisdom aiteo [0154] ask, beg, crave, desire, require para [3844] near ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) didomi [1325] give theos [2316] God pas [3956] all, whole haplos [0574] bountifully kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too me [3361] not, no, none, never oneidizo [3679] reproach, chide, defame, taunt, revile, upbraid kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too didomi [1325] give autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.5.0 Introduction to James 1:5

Verse 5 launches a new stream of ideas beginning with wisdom and ending with foolishness. James often uses stark comparisons to make vivid points. This passage is one of many examples. Verse 5 starts with a recommendation to seek wisdom by asking it of God. James assures us God will be generous in his answer to such a request. Verse 5 does not stand alone, however. Verse 6 establishes a specific requirement directed to us. In our study of Verse 5 we will explore wisdom, asking God for things, the nature of prayer and answers to prayer, and giving.

1.5.1 What is wisdom?

The word translated as wisdom in this passage is the Greek word “sophia.”

According to an online Greek Lexicon, “sophia” is found 49 times in the New Testament. According to this lexicon it means: wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters

1. the wisdom which belongs to men: a) spec. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, and summed up in maxims and proverbs b) the science and learning c) the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice d) the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision e) skill in the management of affairs f) devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth, the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living

2. supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God a) to Christ b) the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing counsels in the formation and government of the world and the scriptures

From an online dictionary, the word “wisdom”:

1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.

2. Common sense; good judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).

3a) The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge: “In those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations” (Maya Angelou).

3b) Wise teachings of the ancient sages.

4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

5. Wisdom - Bible. Wisdom of Solomon.

1.5.2 How valuable is wisdom?

Prov 3:13-18 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. There can be little doubt that wisdom is highly prized, a thing of great value to God, which is why God gives it freely and generously to those who ask.

Prov 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. If the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom, then this “fear” must be even more valuable that the wisdom itself. The word translated fear has additional meanings which include reverence, respect, and piety. This verse is much more well known than understood. It is central to the understanding of salvation and salvation is certainly of greater value than wisdom. I say it is central because, if you consider Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and again with the woman at the well (Jn 4), in both cases the point Jesus made was that he was in fact Lord. The woman didn’t fully comprehend it in theological terms, but she quickly grasped the concept that the man she encountered had both power and authority and, as a benevolent power, she was more than happy to submit to Jesus’ authority. With regard to Nicodemus, Jesus’ dialog with him was according to what he understood. There was no mistake in either his or the woman’s mind who Jesus claimed to be, nor was there any doubt that Jesus required acknowledgment and submission to that authority.

1.5.3 How do we get wisdom?

Jn 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Method 1: Ask for it. As if our feature verse wasn’t enough. Read the context of Jn 14:14 for a full understanding.

Dan 1:17 “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Method 2: God knows you need it, so He imparts it whether you seek it or not. In this case, those who received were called by God for a specific purpose and the giving of special insight was necessary for them to carry out the assigned task. I think there are many great examples of this in scripture. Noah comes to mind as another good example. Information was certainly thrust upon all sort of people in the bible. Of course, they were almost always people God was using, people who were seeking God. They found him, all right.

Gen 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise1, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” {(1) or to give insight} Method 3: We get it for ourselves, from sources not intended by God. That’s pretty common. In fact, there’s a lot in the bible about false teachers and false prophets and such. Satan is the father of lies. You don’t have to encounter Satan in person to encounter lies. Of course the tree of knowledge had God’s good fruit on it, but the wisdom Eve came by was the result of listening to a lie. She wasn’t supposed to have it. But when we seek and accept knowledge from sources other than God, we will find lies in place of God’s true wisdom. When we find truth through unintended sources, it’s usually referred to as losing innocence.

Ps 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Method 4: Seek God and you will start the process of obtaining wisdom. Remember Prov 3:18 from the previous question? The key part was “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her.” Certainly wisdom, at least a form of wisdom, is imparted with true salvation. Wisdom is part of the package deal with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The ultimate fruit? Eternal life.

1.5.4 How much wisdom can we get?

1 Ki 4:29 “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore.” This verse illustrates what is available. The passage in context goes on at length to describe a few areas of Solomon’s expanded wisdom, but suffice it to say God is God, and he can give as much as he sees fit to whom and when he sees fit.

We know there are various ways to acquire wisdom. Since we know there’s plenty to be had, then ask yourself, how much wisdom do you need? Consider Solomon’s life. He enjoy a great gift from God. Still, in his latter years he grew headstrong with his gift, taking about 1000 women as wives and concubines and such, and drifted further and further from the Lord. He was morose and depressed, and his writings expressed these sentiments. As for me, I seek to know what the Lord wants me to know. I seek discernment. I seek to know and to the degree possible understand his will. I seek to share what knowledge and wisdom I receive. I seek to give him the glory for what I receive, and for being that much wiser to know what not to give me. The free gift most valuable of all is the gift of eternal life, and that comes by faith, not wisdom. Wisdom comes from God, to those with faith, and it is not the other way around (Jas 1:6-7).

1.5.5 What do we do with wisdom?

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Imagination is probably the biggest limitation. That said, some things are more worthwhile than others. Here’s a few I’d suggest:

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Certainly the most important work we can do in service to our Lord is to share the good news of his gift with other so that they too might share.

1 Pe 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Every person is unique and every situation is different. Wisdom in necessary in order to adapt to situations and people, to communicate with them in a way they understand, and to demonstrate love in the most meaningful way possible to that individual so that they will open their hearts to receive the good news. For us as individuals this means being prepared with the armor of God and being skilled like a surgeon with your sword, which is the Word of God.

1 Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (Read v1-6 for the full context.) While service to others is the most noble endeavor, and being prepared for the task of sharing the gospel is the most useful application, discernment is also essential for each of us as individuals. We must be able to discern Truth so that we cannot be fooled and lead astray, lost to temptation, or drawn into arguments of circular logic or otherwise drawn away from telling the complete and accurate message of the good news.

I would summarize discernment as a type of wisdom specific to dealing with incoming information, regardless of the form of sensory perception used.

1.5.6 What kind of responsibility does wisdom entail?

Jas 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. It seems one could define wisdom as the opposite of sin. Maybe that’s why wisdom is so important.

1.5.7 To whom is wisdom available?

Referencing our focus verse, the answer seems to lie within. Speaking to the believers scattered about, James says “if any of you…” From this we know at a minimum, believers can receive divine wisdom because that is to whom his letter was addressed. James then instructs us to ask God. So, perhaps it is only to the believers who ask. Well, we know from one of our earlier questions that divine wisdom comes from God for various reasons and in various ways. Requesting it, however, does ensure availability. Next, James says God “gives generously to all.” You might jump on this and say God’s wisdom is then available to anyone, whether they believer or not, only for the asking. I’ve got three problems with such a thought. First, the word “all” modifies the “him” who is asking. “All” does not stand on its own in this sentence. My second problem is derived from the passage in Jn 14:13-14 where Jesus assures the believer that requests made “in his name” would be granted. Third, and most important, is to continue reading James 1:6 and beyond for the full context of these few words we are concentrating on today. James 1:6 says, But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. This definitely places a bit of a restriction on availability. In fact, it clearly confirms and conforms to the first two issues I brought up.

When we ask God for something, we are communicating with Him. Prayer takes a lot of forms. Making requests is one of those forms. We are given plenty of instructions about how to pray. Jesus said to worship in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Jesus also proclaimed he was Truth (Jn14:6). Mt

But that’s not all, folks. James goes on to say “gives generously to all without reproach.” KJV uses the words “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” Knowing the limitations of “all,” you also need to remember divine wisdom is a gift. Like salvation, it cannot be earned, only requested. The request is valid only when made in true faith. When the request is made in true faith, God does promise to answer in the affirmative such a request. In fact, more than answer yes, we are promised a generous (liberal) share. So, the news only gets better!

The phrase “without reproach” or “upbraideth not” says to me that God not only will say yes, but he is seeking us to make this request. He longs to provide us with divine wisdom, if only we will ask. Certainly, the act of physically making the request is not always required, but the only sure way to get the gift is to ask.

Finally, will notice a subtle change in this lesson. I’ve been referring to “divine wisdom” rather than simply wisdom. I think there are different kinds of wisdom. All have value. Divine wisdom, unlike worldly wisdom or simply acquired information (knowledge), is special because it isn’t something we can lay hold of without supernatural involvement. I wanted to make this very clear because it is easy to be confused.

1.5.8 How does wisdom differ from knowledge?

Knowledge (as defined by Dictionary.com):

1.      The state or fact of knowing.

2.      Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.

3.      The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned.

4.      Learning; erudition: teachers of great knowledge.

5.      Specific information about something.

6.      Carnal knowledge.

To me, knowledge means to have a certainty about information.

To me, wisdom is essentially putting information to work by discerning and making the best possible choices based on available information (certain or otherwise).

Prov 1:20-22 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Godly wisdom cries out for the lost. It begs for the lost to come and know the Lord. If you know the Lord, if you understand salvation, of what value is it if you do not stretch out your hand with your information as a gift to those who need it? They may resist, longing to remain carnal, but the wise will cry out, weeping for the lost, seeking to teach them about the Lord and Savior.

Prov 8:12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. Wisdom is seeking. Wisdom not only seeks to share itself with the lost, but to grow and increase itself along the way. There is no way to fully know everything there is to know about God. But, that does not excuse us from making the effort to grow in our knowledge, love and obedient service of him every day.

We’ve looked at wisdom many ways and could surely write a book exploring it, but to what avail? Would it be wise to use so much time learning about wisdom rather than growing our wisdom? I think not.