James 1: 5 – 8
From our last publication, we understood that the Jews were under intense trouble, pain and persecution because of the various challenges they were subjected to from their taskmasters. We were also able to learn that one would require patience as the vehicle needed to develop our various characters. C.S Lewis was quite on point when he said that “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country”.
Just like the Jews, we are also encouraged to constantly endure even in the midst of adverse circumstance(s).
Now we come to an important part of this Epistle and before we unpack this particular section, let’s be reminded about the fact that the Epistle of James happens to be one of the very first books of the New Testament even before the Epistles of Apostle Paul. At that time all James knew was the Old Testament – the reason why they had the debate in Acts 15. All James had at his disposal was the Old Testament and as such had no choice but to refer and quote from it. In the Old Testament, the belief was that you had to do something before you expect a response from God.
With that in mind, and the fact that this letter was addressed to people who were going through trials, pains and persecution, verse 5 of the first chapter then begins to talk about what happens when one lacks wisdom. The idea of wisdom will then point to the question of what to do at times of pain, persecution and trials. We have been encouraged from the early verses that we should allow patience have its perfect work in us so that we could be complete without lacking anything.
So when James talks about “asking for wisdom”, he was actually referring to those who were subjected to trials, taken to the leaders and were pondering on what they would say in case they were brought to trial before the leaders. Remember what Jesus said when he addressed the issue of the last days and tribulation – He said, “But before any of this happens, they’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me” – Luke 21: 12 – 17.
It was a command from Jesus not to think or look for what to say when they were brought before the Kings, Judges and Leaders. Jesus had guaranteed a wisdom that He would deliver them, not before or after but at that instant time when they were brought before the Kings, Leaders or Judges. The people James was writing to were caught between looking for what to say because of the enormity of the pain they were going through and the punishment they were going to be faced with. They were to trust that the wisdom required would be delivered as promised by God. It was a battle in their mind as they were brought before the judges, but as long as they trusted in what God said, they had no reason to worry.
Thinking about what to say rather than trust God on His promise were the only two options they had. Rejecting the command from God meant that they didn’t trust God and their faith was not strictly in God alone. James described such as wavering like the wave of the sea – knowing that a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as the wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. To waver in the Greek meant to totally discriminate, content or to separate, and by implication to contend with what God has promised.
Not only did he describe them as the wave of the sea tossed to and fro, he also referred to them as being double minded. Double-mindedness is dipsychos in the Greek language, which perfectly describes someone who is two spirited, vacillating in opinion or purpose.
An example of this was Peter and John when they were brought before the Jewish leaders after they were told about what happened on the Day of Pentecost. Instantly, God delivered the wisdom to them and when the leaders heard them speak, they were astounded and knew that they had been with the Lord Jesus. We can say the same for Stephen and for Apostle Paul. They never thought about what to say as they were being delivered to the leaders but knew and trusted in the promise of the Almighty God about what to say when they are brought before the Leaders.
His audience, because of the understanding of the excruciating pain and what they had experienced may well have been preparing what they were going to say to their persecutors and at the same time praying to God for wisdom. They believed in Christ and as such must believe in His Word. To not believe in His promise(s) that God would give them wisdom to defend themselves, is to be incongruous.
This was a definite promise and statement; and all they could have done was to ask for the promise by not looking for a backdoor.
It’s quite different from what Paul prayed in Ephesians 1: 17 which we must pray continually.
“Mark Antony yoked two lions to his chariot; but there are two lions no man ever yoked together yet— the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the lion of the pit. These can never go together. Two opinions you may hold in politics, perhaps, but then you will be despised by everybody, unless you are of one opinion or the other, and act as an independent man. But two opinions in the matter of soul-religion you cannot hold.” – C.H Spurgeon