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What should you do if you lack wisdom (James 1:5)?

lacks wisdom

Wisdom is crucial for Christian living, a treasure more valuable than gold and silver (Proverbs 16:16). Followers of Jesus are encouraged to pursue wisdom, acquire knowledge, and attain proper understanding. The entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to this goal. However, what should we do if we lack this trait of wisdom?

James 1:5 provides an answer, particularly in the face of trials—though the principle applies to everyday decision-making: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

According to James 1:5, the wisdom we need (and sometimes lack) comes from God. This is distinct from natural wisdom, which arises solely from human understanding and worldly perspectives. The latter often serves to satisfy human desires at the expense of godly truth. In James 3:13–17, the apostle contrasts the two types of wisdom:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Other Bible passages emphasize the superiority of godly wisdom over its worldly counterpart. In 1 Corinthians 1:25, Paul asserts that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” This does not imply that God can be foolish or weak. Instead, it demonstrates that even what might appear foolish or weak from a human perspective is better than human wisdom and strength. The key focus of this passage is the gospel. Christ’s crucifixion appears foolish and weak, but it is, in fact, God’s power and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Is it wrong to be smart or use our intellect? Not at all! We’re called to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37–38). However, relying solely on human intellect will inevitably lead us away from God’s path, causing us to do what seems right in our eyes (Proverbs 12:15; 14:12; 16:25). The concluding chapters of the book of Judges demonstrate the dangers of doing whatever we please.

We require God’s wisdom, and, fortunately, He is generous in giving it. He does not act as if we’re overstepping boundaries in asking for His wisdom. God is a giver, and possessing godly wisdom aligns with His will for us (Proverbs 2:6; 4:7). While worldly wisdom is self-centered, godly wisdom is God-glorifying. It also leads to good deeds and holy living (Ephesians 5:15–17; James 3:13).

Finally, the request for wisdom from God must always be accompanied by faith. Trust that God will answer, and do not be like “a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

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What should you do if you lack wisdom (James 1:5)?
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This page last updated: June 20, 2023