One of the general characteristics of millennials (the sector of our population that graduated from high school around the year 2000) is that they rely on technology for answers more than on the experience and expertise of the people close to them. Their phones are smarter than their parents, their teachers, even their doctors.
It is true that the internet offers immediate answers to many questions. A few years back I repaired the shutter on my camera using an after-market part and a YouTube video, saving myself a significant amount of money and time.
But surfing for wisdom is a bad idea. GOOGLE is not God.
In James 1.5-8, Jesus’ half-brother writes,
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
This text teaches us several things. First, wisdom is important. Wisdom is the way in which we apply knowledge to the questions, problems, challenges, and thorny issues of life. We can’t apply knowledge we don’t possess or learn from experiences we have never had, so sometimes we are at a complete loss to know what we should do. Proverbs 19.2 tells us that “…desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses the way.” Making decisions in ignorance is dangerous.
How important is wisdom? King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, quotes his father, David, as saying, “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (PRO 4.7) Apart from our salvation itself, wisdom is the most important thing we can possess. Solomon wrote an entire book–Ecclesiastes–about the folly of living without it.
Just as desire without knowledge is not good, so knowledge without wisdom is not good. It is counterproductive. Contrasting love with knowledge regarding a specific ethical issue in Corinth, Paul writes, “This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Knowledge of untested ideas can make one dangerous–like a first-time surgeon who has learned his craft by reading Grey’s Anatomy. Likewise, a head full of facts–even knowledge of God’s Word–not applied to the issues of life is of no use to anyone. To the contrary–it gives one the delusion of expertise by confusing knowledge with wisdom. Life is not a game of Jeopardy.
Another thing we learn from this passage is that wisdom comes from God. Paul spends a good deal of time pressing this point with the Corinthians. They appear to be a church obsessed with credentials rather than wisdom. Paul makes this clear when he asks, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…For the foolishness of God [if God could be foolish] is wiser than men, and the weakness of God [if God could be weak] is stronger than men.” (1 COR 1.20, 25)
Growing up with Jesus, James saw wisdom at work. Luke the physician tells us that even as a boy, Jesus “…grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him…And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (LUK 2.40,52) As Jesus began His ministry, the public was astounded by His teachings. Matthew records that when Jesus taught in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, this is what happened:
…they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not this his mother Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where did this man get all these things?’
It was clear to all that Jesus’ wisdom was unheard of. Unearthly. Supernatural. It was the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of the world. James was exposed to it early as Jesus’ little brother, and now he assures us that if we need it–and we always do–we should go to God for it. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” (PRO 2.6)
God gives wisdom generously. This is the third thing James wants his readers to understand. And why wouldn’t He? He wants us to have it, and He wants us to know that He is the source of it. GOOGLE should not be the first place to which we go for answers.
Finally, James teaches us that wisdom is a matter of faith, not of schooling. More than once my father told me, “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” The most valuable training in life does not happen in the classroom. Education, while useful and desirable, is not the panacea that will cure the ills of society. Even as I write this, it is as if someone is standing behind me and whispering in my ear, “That’s so easy to say. Now, put your money where your mouth is.”
Unwavering faith in God, earnest requests for His help, understanding of His Word, and application of its precepts to the complexities of life is what will enable the one who “lacks wisdom” to receive it from the only place where it can actually be found.