Post-class comments on Lesson 3 – James 1:5-8

Scarecrow sings, «If I only had a brain...»“If I only had a brain…” That’s the song of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was looking for home, the Tin Man needed a heart and the Lion some c-c-courage. As the three were embarking on the yellow brick road, they realized they were each missing something. James, after telling us to consider all of life’s trials as “pure joy” (1:2), also realizes that we all need something – this something is wisdom. “If I only had wisdom…” Wisdom ≠ brains. No, again and again, the Old Testament says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” James later describes wisdom in terms that have much more to do with character rather than intellect (3:13-18). Wisdom for James is about reacting to trials and temptation as God would have us respond rather than with our own visceral, gut reaction.

Thankfully, James does not tell us to simply wish for wisdom, but points us to the generously giving God who is singly devoted to doing what’s best for us-with no strings attached (1:5). While God gives without reservation, he does reserve his hearing to only certain kinds of prayers – the prayers of those who are singly devoted and faithful to him. He will not listen to the prayers of double-minded doubters. Now, God does not turn a deaf ear to those of us with intellectual doubt. No, there are too many Psalms that ask sincerely “How long O, Lord?” or “Why have you forsaken me?” God hears those prayers that express “intellectual doubt” when those doubts are handed over to him. What God turns a deaf ear to is the prayer of one who asks for something from a benevolent God, but in turn goes “behind God’s back” and acts of his own accord with no regard to God’s will in his life. The God who is single-heartedly devoted to giving us what is best demands that we approach him as single-hearted believers who not only believe in God, but actually act upon it. To have anything other than single-hearted devotion to the single-hearted generous God is to accept a life and reputation as unstable as the storm-tossed sea. So, the question is will you stand secure in obedient faith, or will you accept seasickness as your lot? Secure or seasick? The answer is a no-brainer, but the follow-through will take all the resources of a God who is 100% loyally sold out to giving us what is best – for our good and his glory.

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2 thoughts on “Post-class comments on Lesson 3 – James 1:5-8”

  1. Jim,
    I think you got the meaning of “doubt” here in James 1.6 exactly right! You’ve either seen how James uses the word in ch. 2 and thought, “Huh, how can the same word fit meaningfully into both contexts without proposing that it has two completely different senses?” Or, you’ve done a good word study and noticed how the word is used in other contexts. Or, maybe you’re familiar with the recent journal articles on this word by David DeGraaf (ETS Dec ’05)or Peter Spitaler (Biblica ’06).

    I like to see the connection between what James says about asking God with “distinctions” in 1.6 as spelled out more specifically in 4.2 as asking God wrongly in order that you may spend on your pleasures. God wants us single-minded towards him, not approaching him with requests while “discriminating” between his possible responses. If we aren’t double-minded, then we’ll ask according to his will and leave the response up to God.

  2. Hey there Zeph, thanks for the comment. I agree whole heartedly (or is it single heartedly?) with the connection between 1:6 and 4:2. Thanks for the heads up on the articles. I have not seen them, now I’ll look them up!

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