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.
Relate: There is a difference between being wise and being smart. Cambridge defines wisdom as: “the ability to make good judgments based on what you have learned from your experience or the knowledge and understanding that gives you this ability.” It defines knowledge: “understanding of or information about a subject that you get by experience or study.” That is Cambridge. The Beejai definition of these is a bit simpler. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. Wisdom is the beneficial application of facts to life. Knowledge is passive. I collect and gather information but whether or not I do anything with this information is irrelevant. Wisdom is active. I could be as smart as Einstein, but if I am not using this knowledge in how I live my life than I am nothing more than a very smart fool. On the flip side, some of the wisest people I know are men and women who, because of life’s circumstances or their own proclivities, are not really all that educated.
Knowledge has to be earned. It takes time and effort to accumulate. Some might be able to learn quicker or easier than others, but no matter how easy it comes, it still takes work. Wisdom, on the other hand, can be gifted. If you or I don’t know what the right thing to do in a certain situation is, we can ask God and He will show us. God might not give me the knowledge to pass a difficult exam, but He will grant you wisdom in dealing with a difficult boss. But often, God’s wisdom seems to run counter to what the world would have us do in the same situation. If we try to rely on both simultaneously, well… we are a double-minded person, unstable in all we do.
React: I am definitely not a fan of how the second portion of scripture is all too often taken out of context, misapplied and abused. I am praying for a new job. I don’t get it. My friend tells me it was because I did not “believe and not doubt”. Another friend prays that his old car will be able to make it through this one more winter or the finances would be provided to be able to get something newer and more reliable. The car doesn’t survive. The finances don’t arrive. He puts himself through a guilt trip for not having enough faith.
No. No. Let me say it again, NO! Being able to suppress or eliminate our mistaken ideal of what doubt really is, is not some magic talisman that will guarantee we will get whatever we pray for. James is specifically saying that God will grant us wisdom. Wisdom. And this specifically within the context of what to do when undergoing trials. This is what God says I should do in a circumstance like this, but maybe if I wait, another option might present itself. This is what scripture says we should do when that happens, but my lawyer said… This is what… but… No. No buts. When God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom are not running parallel, we have no business trying to apply both. Do we doubt God is good? Do we doubt He is Faithful? Do we not believe He knows more than we do? It is this doubt of the character of God or the efficacy of His wisdom that James is saying we should avoid. It is not some mythical shutting off of our brains and thinking processes altogether. Trust Him. Trust that He is good and that He will show You the right way to walk through any situation.
Give me wisdom. God, so often I think I know what the best way to move forward is, but I am not looking to You. So often You have a better way. You have a wiser path. But I am so caught up in doing things the way I might think is best, or the way I have been taught by the seminaries or the analysts. Knowledge can be accumulated in many ways and from many sources but true wisdom comes only from You. Help me to walk in that wisdom.