“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
In the first couple of verses of James’ letter, he tells his audience to consider it great joy when they experience trials of various kinds. We talked about some of the whys and hows of this on Wednesday. Such considerations strengthen our faith and produce endurance in us for when even harder times comes. The question this raises is how do we know how to proceed in this journey?
James doesn’t leave us hanging for long. Here he tells us about one of the great sources of help we have in this effort. When we’re not sure what to do, we don’t have to simply wander around in the dark. Experiencing the work of endurance that comes from persisting through the various trials we face in this life isn’t something our faithful God leaves us to figure out on our own. He is ready and waiting to share with us from His wisdom in our efforts. We need only ask.
When we need wisdom for the next steps of the journey stretching out before us, we need only ask God for it and He will give it. Actually, the way James puts it is “if any of you lacks wisdom.” That’s generous of him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever have all the wisdom I need. There is always a lack in me. I suspect I’m not alone in that. Well, we need only ask God for it.
And I love the way James stops himself to remind us about God’s character. He tells us three really important things there. God doesn’t play any kind of favorites (and theme that would come back later in the letter) with what is His. He is going to show the same love and grace—and justice—to anyone and everyone regardless of who they are, where they’re from, what lies in their past, and anything else that might make them stand apart from the people around them. God gives to all.
He also gives generously. God’s not stingy with what is His. He doesn’t give us just enough to get the job done without any waste. His resources are as limitless as He is and so He can and does give like it. And when He gives, there are no hard feelings about it. He gives ungrudgingly. You’ve perhaps been given something by a miser. A miser gives stingily, but he also pays careful attention to what he gives, expecting that you will be giving it all back down to the last penny. Again, because God’s resources are endless, He gives like it. We need only ask, and it will be given.
There’s just one criteria we have to meet. This is that catch you may have been waiting for. And, by the way, we’re still talking about wisdom here. The catch is this: We have to actually believe He’ll do it. We have to ask in faith, James says, without doubting. He goes on to describe the person who doubts in her asking in rather unflattering terms.
Now, why is that such a big deal? Well, have you ever been asked for something by someone who didn’t really believe you’d give them what they were seeking? How did that make you feel? It made me feel pretty badly. Whether it was intended or not, what was communicated was that I am cheap and stingy and spiteful and a host of other not so good things. If anything, that unstated assumption left me even less disposed to give than I might have been otherwise.
God won’t be manipulated like that, and He is absolutely confident in who He is. When we ask with doubting, the issue is not primarily that we are offending God, although we are. The issue is that by our getting His character so wrong, we aren’t asking the god we think we’re asking. We’re asking some other god, but errantly calling that other god by His name. If we’re not asking the omnisapient God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, we shouldn’t expect to get anything from Him.
So, if you lack wisdom, just ask God for it. But make sure you ask the right god. James has already assured us He’ll fulfill our request, the question is, do we believe him? My advice: Test him and see.