James, Devotion #5: The Wise Person

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Here’s what I hope you discover today:

  • We are commanded to ask “in faith” so God can give!
  • Wisdom comes from God, and it is more than just knowledge!
  • The doubter drifts between ‘two-souls’ and so he is disordered!

IN THE WORD

Read James 1:5-8:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways..” (ESV)

The last time we investigated James 1, we discovered that our trials have a purpose, and as we go through our trials (“when you encounter various trials”) we are to deliberately (“Consider”) have a joyful attitude knowing that trials can bring numerous benefits.

Today, as we focus on 1:5-8, James continues to help those going through trials by informing them what to ask God for, and how to ask God.

We are commanded to ask “in faith” so God can give!

James bluntly reminds us:

  • James is commanding us to ask “from the giving God” (V. 5). In other words, it is natural to God to give, and he wants to bestow what we ask for.
  • James, the half-brother of Jesus, demonstrates his knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. Notice how similar this is to what Jesus himself taught in Matthew 7:7-11.
  • We receive from God not because we deserve it, nor because we earned it, but because we ask for it through the medium, or vehicle of faith.
  • This is the second time the word “faith” appears in James. In James 1:2, we were told “your faith” would be tested; now, we are told that asking “in faith” brings results!
  • Faith is the medium, or vehicle by which we receive salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), wisdom (James 1:5), and the only way we can please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Wisdom comes from God, and it is more than just knowledge!

Here’s what James tells us about wisdom:

  • Of all the things we could ask for (money, power, health, love), James demands if we lack wisdom, ask for it.
  • Wisdom is putting knowledge to use. In the Hebrew tradition, wisdom is not just intelligence or facts, but it is skillfully living in the proper, godly way of life. Observe what these other verses teach about wisdom:
    1. Job 28:28: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.’” (NASB)
    2. Proverbs 2:6: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (NIV)
    3. 1 Corinthians 1:30: God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” (NLT)
  • In summary, wisdom is a gift from God, ultimately seen as reverence for God (the “fear of the Lord”), personified in the life of Jesus, that we might know how to skillfully live the godly life.

The doubter drifts between ‘two-souls’ and so he is disordered!

James concludes by describing the doubter:

  • In comparison to the one asking “in faith” and receiving, “the doubting one” (literally what V. 6 says) is like a wave of the ocean: spineless, chaotic, tossed about with no aim or direction, and dangerous.
  • “The doubting one” should expect to receive nothing because he has faith in nothing (at least not in God). He may believe in many things, but faith is confidence and trust in the word and promises of God. This, “the doubting one” does not possess.
  • “The doubting one” lives as if he has “two-souls” (the literal meaning of the word “double-minded”) and is consequently “unstable” and disordered in all his ways.
  • Literally, “the doubting one” is “unstable” because, as the original word suggests, he is at war with himself, mostly because he does not know himself, or his Creator. The word “unstable” is the same word used later by James in 3:8 of the tongue (“it is an unstable and unrestrainable evil”), and 3:16 of disorder of any kind associated with all kinds of evil.

IN THE WORLD

Let these instructions from James soak in as you reflect on these questions:

  • What are you asking “the giving God” for these days?
  • How is Jesus the “wisdom” of God today?
  • As James describes “the doubting one”, this is not a person who is at times perplexed or may doubt why God says or does this or that. James describes “the doubting one” as a person who continues to doubt and has no confidence in God at all. In closing, can you see the contrast James is depicting between the wise person and “the doubting one”? List how different these two people truly are.

RA

Author: Randy Allison

I am an adjunct professor and pastor, driven to understand more about faith and how to live that faith in twenty-first century America.

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