Saturday, September 17, 2022

God: The Source of Wisdom (James 1:5)


If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. [James 1:5, ESV]

I apologize in advance for being such a Bible geek, but I want to understand what the word “wisdom” means in this context. In the Greek, the word for wisdom is “σοφία” (pronounced, “sophia”). This word, according to Lexham Theological Wordbook, “refers to the quality of having knowledge, skill, and experience in the sense of mastery over a particular subject or trade through practice and learning”. The more appropriate meaning of the word “wisdom” can be found in the information that comes right after the aforementioned definition:

“In the NT (and Greek literature more broadly), sophia has the same essential range as OT words for wisdom, referring generally to the capacity for sound judgment or the possession of specific skills.” - Lexham Theological Wordbook

Based on what we know about the meaning of the word (σοφία), we can look at the context of James 1:5, and reasonably conclude that the text is referring to the ability to have sound judgement.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,...

I do not believe that any of us could have enough wisdom. We are incapable of knowing everything, and struggle to understand what we do know. Therefore, I would encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to regularly ask God for wisdom. If we lack wisdom (which we do), we should ask God. While there are certainly benefits to asking a friend, family member, or a teacher, we are told to ask God for wisdom. The Bible tells us that wisdom originates from the Lord, so we should seek Him when we need wisdom.

…let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach,...

I have included the latter half of the previous excerpt, as I believe that the context would be lost if I did not include the portion about asking God for wisdom. This part of James 1:5 describes God’s character. God does not just give us some wisdom, He gives wisdom generously. Not only does God give us wisdom generously, He gives us wisdom without reproach.

The word “reproach” is not a word that one hears frequently, so let us examine what this word means in the context of James 1:5. For this word, I chose to reference James 1:5 in the New Living Translation (NLT), which is a thought-for-thought translation of the Bible. In other words, the NLT is a translation of the meaning of each passage, rather than a translation of each word. The opposite of “thought-for-thought” is “word-for-word” (such as the ESV, which I use for the majority of my studying and writing). Anyway, the NLT clarifies the meaning of reproach:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. [James 1:5, NLT]

Here, we see the phrase “without reproach” translated in a very different way. Both translations are accurate, but the NLT helps explain what the aforementioned phrase means. God does not rebuke us when we ask for wisdom. We can ask God for wisdom, expect that God will give us wisdom, and that we will not be rebuked for asking. In fact, James 1:5 tells us that, if we need wisdom, we are to ask God. James 1:5 does not suggest that we ask God if we need wisdom, James 1:5 tells us that if we need wisdom, we are to ask God. James 1:5 gives us instructions for how to handle our lack of wisdom.

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