Where the world comes to study the Bible

James 1:7

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 1:7 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
me [3361] not, no, none, never gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that oiomai [3633] make like ones self, suppose, think, image, be of the opinion ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) anthropos [0444] human, certain person ekeinos [1565] he, it, that… hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) lambano [2983] accept, attain, bring, have, hold, obtain, take up away tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat para [3844] near ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) kurios [2962] Lord, Master, Sir

1.7.0 Introduction to James 1:7

After describing the catch to receiving promises from God in verse 6, verse 7 spells it out very plainly. If you lack faith your requests will go unfilled. In this verse we look more deeply into why doubt is a reason not to receive from God. We also look at what it means to receive.

1.7.1 Why should the doubter not expect anything from the Lord?

Nu 21:4-9 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Passage provided for context.

Nu 21:4 the people became impatient on the way. (ESV). KJV says and the souls of the people became much discouraged because of the way. Either rendering seems to imply the people doubted Moses and, by extension, God. The doubt (lack of faith) caused the Lord to send the snakes (serpents) to bite them with poisonous venom. God made a provision, though, so as they were dying they had the choice to look upon the bronze serpent and live. The doubters couldn’t expect to live, but the ones with enough faith looked and did live. Truly it takes a tiny amount of faith to find salvation, but you have to fix your gaze upon the true source of salvation. I also like this passage because it illustrates how faith can be restored and the doubt overcome. The grace of a God who allows us to return to him after wandering away in our consumption with self-pity, worry and doubt is humbling and remarkable.

1.7.2 What does receive mean?

The dictionary has a rather lengthy answer to this question which I will distill as follows: to take or acquire, get; to hear or see information; to have bestowed on oneself; to meet with or experience; bear the weight or force of, support; take or intercept the impact of; take in, hold or contain (such as a tank); to admit; greet or welcome; perceive or acquire mentally; regard with approval or disapproval; listen to and acknowledge formally and authoritatively.

In context with James 1:7, the question really has to do with receiving from God. As there is nothing we can earn from God, per se, anything we receive from Him is a gift. This includes anything from wisdom (v5) to salvation. In keeping with the context of our focal passage, receiving does depend on first asking, and then with a stipulation (faith).

The word “receive” is very important. Any gift isn’t a gift until given. The giving isn’t complete until the gift is received. Until the gift is used, it isn’t fully received. It takes faith to use what God gives (see Nu 21 discussion from previous question). God offers wisdom, even to the point of writing a book and putting in our hands, but until we open that book and read it, we have not received it. How much faith does it take to simply open a book and read it? The same could be said of hearing the Word through preaching, observation of creation, or anything else.

What God says must be more than heard (or read), it must be obeyed. Obedience is the culmination of receiving, the full use of any gift given by God. This explains why obedience (deeds) is so closely associated with faith. When the snake bitten people looked at the bronze snake (Nu 21:9), they were obedient, thus demonstrating faith, thus the gift of salvation from the poison was received.

James said faith without works is dead (James 2:7). Some would say his teaching is contrary to Paul’s, but they are wrong. In Eph 2:8-9 Paul preached the very important message that we must have the right attitude and think rightly, believing. The natural result of believing is obedience (works). James understood this principle. A lot of people ignore Paul’s expression of the same concept in Romans 2:13. Understanding the concept of receiving from God, a topic generated by James 1:7, proves it. Eph 2:10 shows Paul also understood this principle. Faith is the requirement, and the purpose of believing is to become a doer of the Word. Just as faith without works is dead, Paul merely preached that works without faith is dead. The two principles are two sides of the same coin, thus I contend that James and Paul really preached messages which are in total agreement, completely without contradiction.