Wisdom is an important theme in the Book of James, revealing the author’s influence from Old Testament wisdom literature such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. As James provides direction for times of duress, prayer for wisdom is the second sequential suggestion he offers.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. (James 1:5-8, NLT)
Part of the struggle we have in times of adversity is our inability to have clarity regarding the decisions we need to make. In life’s journey, adversity can cloud our thinking like a dense fog, causing us to be disoriented. So it should not surprise us that James suggests that we seek wisdom in the midst of our trials and troubles.
He writes with great confidence that God, who is generous, will grant wisdom to any who ask. God’s generosity is not limited by our limitations. He is understanding and empathetic to our humanness. At this point, the promise is made unconditionally to anyone who asks.
Our lack of wisdom is not a failure on God’s part. Our lack of wisdom is rooted in our divided hearts and minds. James illustrates our divided loyalties and likens it to the ocean waves, tossed and turned by the winds of worldly influences and self interest. Until our hearts become unified and fully inclined toward God, we will remain indecisive and unstable.
We need the wisdom of God at all times, and the good news of the Gospel is that it is available to each of us. But God’s wisdom cannot be understood when it is reduced to a menu item that is listed among many options. We cannot have God’s wisdom if we are going to weigh it against the secular wisdom of the day. God is not interested in that, and calls it “lack of faith.”
For James, faith is only as good as its object. When we evaluate the sources of counsel that speak into our lives, we should not evaluate the counsel as much as the counselor. God’s wisdom may not always make sense, but because he the source of that wisdom, it can be trusted.