"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."
I'm about to conjecture something about James that never occurred to me before. If I am correct about this it would clear up a lot of the problems the text of James presents us with. Here it is: could it be that James isn't writing a letter at all but rather that he has collected a group of "sayings" from Jesus and the early church fathers that he felt were valuable for the believer? The major problem this would solve with the text is the way James seems to jump from point to point with no particular regard for order.
Here, verse 5 seems pretty disconnected to what came before, excepting the reference to "lacking". Likewise, if verses 5-8 are supposed to make a unified statement the idea that we won't receive any wisdom from God if we doubt in the slightest seems far-fetched at best. But if we treat James' writing here as we would the Proverbs, then the statement can stand on its own.
Now the generalized statement is this: if I lack wisdom I should do as Solomon did and ask for it. God is generous and will give that to me without slapping me around for not having had it in the first place. This is different from the "point" of verse 4 which had to do with the filling or completing of the whole person in body, mind and spirit through the discipline of steadfastness. Verse 4 is about you simply standing and waiting for God to do something in you (ala Ephesians 6). Verse 5, by contrast, has to do with you acting in order to gain a result. Verse 4 is about the sovereignty of God interacting with our will to simply "be there". Verse 5 is about you happily pestering God to give you what he gave Solomon. They stand in complete contrast. Verse 4 is passive (in terms of what we need to do) or at least passive-agressive! Verse 5 is active. Etc, etc, etc.
Another case can be made for these sayings not being a letter in the strictest sense of the word. I think it is more than coincidental that here, just after the briefest of introductions, James begins his content with a discussion of wisdom. Is it a nod in Solomon's direction? Is he saying, "here, look at the sayings that follow and treat them like you do the Proverbs?"
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.