Don’t Know What to Do?
Have you ever argued with the wisdom you asked for? You solicit your spouse for advice and then disregard it. A repairman tells you what’s wrong with your furnace, but you call someone else. You debate with your GPS in a new city, certain you can find a better way. If any of this rings true, you will understand the counsel of James.
The James I speak of was an early leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13) and half brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). He was the author of the Book of James - a pragmatic expression of faith. Early in his book, James invites us to ask God for the wisdom we lack. We are assured that God will give all we need and not shame us for the asking (James 1:5-8). But we are warned. Those who look to God for wisdom should not doubt, or they become fluctuating souls, who spin in the wind. We might think that James is calling us to believe that God will grant the wisdom we need. But there’s a better understanding.
James is not cautioning against doubt that God will provide wisdom, but warns of our suspicion about the wisdom itself. In other words, when God shows us the answer we ask for, we should not question the prudence of it. God grants all the knowledge we need, but when we are suspect of His Words, we have scorned wisdom itself. We argue with the GPS and we get lost. We reject the experience of mechanics and shiver in a cold house. We dismiss the voice of our spouse and they will stop offering help. We reject the counsel of God and we end up with no wisdom at all.
Wisdom is sown in hearts and minds prepared to receive it. We think that desperation is preparation enough! Our situation is urgent and confusion is deep. We call out to God, receive His answer and then question it. We don’t see how God’s way will work. His answer doesn’t make any sense. We sniff around for paths that are easier. And our confusion grows deeper. The urgency remains. It takes more than crisis to prepare hearts for God’s wisdom. We need humility and faith.
Humble hearts admit they don’t have the solution. Their remedies are wrung dry. They are willing to receive God’s direction even if they can’t predict its outcome. Wisdom bounces off the proud. The humble hear it. And then the humble act upon it. Wisdom is like the exercise bike in the basement. Good to have. Better to use. Faith takes the risk to trust that God knows what He is talking about.
In my imagination I hear a domestic root to James’ words. Growing up with Jesus as your older brother creates its own tension. There would be times when Jesus offered advice to His younger sibling James, and James scoffed - he knew better! He eventually comes to faith and humbly submits to His Lord. James now tells us, no one knows better than Jesus. So boldly ask, humbly receive, and courageously act.