In which I unearth the James conundrum…

by Craig on November 29, 2010

To get through trials we need wisdom. No problem, God will give it to us if we only ask. But…

I continue to study deep into the Book of James.

First, a  recap of this section on trials and temptations. It’s not because you guys need it, but I do. Because I forget what I learn, just  like a baby in a high chair forgets where to stuff the strained peas. Plus, some people may be joining in for the first time. Aaaaaaannnd I just figured out how to insert links in the text – and clever little side comments that appear when you hover above them. So please, if you haven’t read the links, feel free to click away, and if you have – hovering is cool. Here’s the recap:

  1. trials are needed for wisdom (here)
  2. there is “all joy” in trials – not “garden variety” joy (here)
  3. God works with us so that our pain isn’t wasted (here)
  4. God will bring about perfect results, even through our imperfect efforts (here)

and

now

with

no

further

ado

we

present

the

James…

…conundrum:

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.”

It sounds so very simple.

So inviting.

So easy.

So, I’m sitting here, minding my own business. I’m having a terrible time with this trial. It’s nasty. I hate it. I love you Lord. But I hate the trials. Can I hear an Amen?

“So what do I need to get through this trial?” I think.

Oh, wisdom.

And James, in this verse says, all I have to do to get wisdom is ask – and God will give it to me. And how will he give it to me? He’ll do so “generously and ungrudgingly” In the Greek those words look like this

ἁπλῶς  καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος

First, I think Greek writing looks pretty. Second, looking at it, I feel smarter then just looking at the English. Third, I spent years learning how to translate it in Seminary. But fourth – now you don’t need to. Fifth – feel free to check up on me – never trust a translation or pronunciation you heard on the street corner. Sixth – and this is the fun part. The words sound like this

“Aplos… kai meyyyyyyyy…onaydeedzontos”

Read that once or twice till you get it

then do it with a Greek accent, which sounds very Italian, just think Italian, that helps me.

Fun huh?

“Aplos… kai meyyyyyyyy…onaydeedzontos”

And what do those words mean? Literally, “straighforwardly and WITHOUT  reproach”. That’s how God will give me the wisdom. It means that God shows he has nothing up his sleeve, hands extended, and will not say something like, “Here, but deal with this better next time would ya?”

This sounds excellent.

So I ask.

And God says “Sure, my child. I have open hands”.

and he gives me…

now remember point number one up above…

yup that first point – scroll up if your memory is like mine…

God gives me…

you guessed it…

…more trials

For which I then need more wisdom to get through the trials right?

So I ask

and he gives

and I get

See the problem?

Right? A conundrum.

The trials are needed for wisdom, wisdom is needed for the trials, but to get wisdom. which is a gift of God, which is better than our wisdom, he may likely subject us to more trials.

Is it a sneaky way to throw more stuff at us? Yes. Yes it is. But only  if we read it with merely 21st century eyes. But to the first century Christian, who would have been familiar with this pairing of trial with wisdom, it would have been perfectly straightforward – just like the words say.

So now you have it. This verse which often gets taken out of context – and thrown about with gleeful abandon. You now know way more than the average Seminary grad. You know way more about it than I did when I graduated. You know way more than I did before I studied this.

But it’s a good thing, this conundrum, because of points 2, 3, and 4, above. I want wisdom. If it takes more trials to get it – fine. If God sees fit to give it to me in a less painful way – that’s fine too. So next time you ask for wisdom – well – now you know.

I’m still asking for it anyway.

I never learn.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie November 29, 2010 at 2:07 am

I hadn’t thought of that in reading that verse . . .nor heard it taught before. I love learning something new here. And this is an important one. I’ll ask too, with you, for more wisdom. And hang on in trust of Him. God bless you!

Reply

Craig November 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I know deb – it’s a secret one – nobody ever talks about this when they speak of this verse. And you are right – if we want to be more like God we have to welcome the trials – not despise them. Easy to say though right?

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Anonymuss November 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

trials set us free, too, don’t they? we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free…each trial can be viewed as an opportunity to gain more freedom via more truth. one way that i see trials. they are also my spiritual gym-making me stronger when i let them.

and wisdom, isn’t it interesting that we come by it through our labor pains? i wonder if God ever just smites someone with wisdom without the pain?

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Craig November 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Funny A.

Reminds me of a line from Fiddler on the Roof – he’s talking about being poor and he’s heard the schpeel about money being a curse and hes says, something like “If wealth is a curse – MAY GOD SMITE ME WITH IT! Smiles on a rainy day – thank you A.

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Anonymuss November 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

your comments remind me of #2 of your list in About You…it is neat that you had seminary, too. i like learning the things that come, in part, out of that aspect of your experience, also. you blend the two-life letters and academic letters-so insightfully and artfully. thank you, craig.

Reply

Craig November 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

seriously – when I’m feeling a little down, I’m just gonna come back and read all of your comments.

thank you.

It’s taken God a long time to make me even the least bit usable.

Reply

Linda Kruschke November 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Craig, I have found the same conundrum to be true with patience. I ask God for patience, and He give me situations that require me to be more patient! I suppose patience could be viewed as a sub-set of wisdom. I, for one, believe the wisdom is worth the price. It is far superior to the ignorance I once lived in. Peace and Merry Christmas, Linda

Reply

Craig November 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Hee

Linda I learned long ago to joke about that “Be careful when asking for patience – because God will then place you at the end of the line”. Funny

And good point, I think, as kindness is a tiny little division of love, patience must be a tiny little division of wisdom.

Merry Christmas to you too.

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