This is a follow-up post to the article, “Jesus – right on time.”
(See the “James On Trial” site for more on this title… http://james.justordinaryfolks.com/2009/09/looking-wisdom/)
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Pet 3:18)
Several years ago, I did an in-depth study of the Book of James. I ended up teaching and preaching for a full year on the series! (If you would like the outlines, I can make them available later.) One of the primary concepts that I developed through that study was concerning the acquisition of wisdom.
I do NOT believe that God “sprinkles wisdom dust” on our heads. I believe that there is a PROCESS through which we develop wisdom. Here is my take on that line of intellectual development:
- Knowledge is the accumulation of “facts” (or presumed facts)
- Understanding is the comprehension of those facts
- Wisdom is the application (in life) of our understanding of the facts that we have accumulated
Most of the education today (up to and often throughout undergraduate studies) is simply sharing “facts” from a book (or from a teacher’s brain) to a student. Then a test is given where the student is expected to repeat the “facts” that he/she has been “taught.” Usually, an objective test (multiple choice, etc) is used to evaluate this. Some very talented & caring teachers make it their business to move from the sharing of facts to encouraging/forcing their students to think through an issue and develop an understanding of the facts that they possess. To evaluate such comprehension generally requires a subjective test (such as essay writing.) Since this is much more difficult to develop and to grade, many teachers revert to “teaching facts.” I do not believe that our schools/colleges/universities are equipped to teach wisdom.
Actually, it is my educated opinion (note1) that wisdom CANNOT be taught! In every case, wisdom must be learned through experience. But someone already has their “hand in the air” wanting to correct me using James 1:5 as the proof that Godly wisdom is given by God. But, like so many Scriptures, this one can be misconstrued if taken out of context.
James wrote this portion of the Bible to answer the ancient question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In verse 2, he told Christians everywhere to “Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Well, DUH! This guy’s got it wrong from the gitgo! Who, in his right mind, can possibly be happy when everything is going wrong? And, in that day, “going wrong” often meant “facing death.”
But James gives a reason for being joyful in such severe trials, “BECAUSE.” (Not like my mom used to answer, “Because I SAID so!”) Rather, this “because” explains things… “because… the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (or “patience” if you read the KJV.) Well, if I wanted patients, I would have become a doctor! <grin> But bear with me (actually with James) here for a minute: Verse 4 says that “perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Let me reverse-analyze James’ thinking here:
- We NEED/WANT to be mature & complete (v.4)
- To get there, perseverance must be finished
- But, to acquire perseverance, we must face trials of many kinds & our faith must be tested (vv 2,3)
Did I get all of that right? If so, then it appears that when we get patience/perseverance, it is NOT because God sprinkled it down from heaven upon our heads – it is the result of our having undergone severe trials that test our faith. And, as we put that patient attitude to work, we move further along in the PROCESS of becoming mature & complete.
Now, I have not forgotten about verse 5 here. After moving through the “patience process,” at some point, we should reach maturity & become “complete, not lacking anything.” Now, does it seem strange to you that the very next verse says, “If any of you lacks…”? If I read that correctly, when you finished with your trial, you should have become “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (at least in reference to that situation). How can you then say, “I am mature and complete, not lacking anything, EXCEPT I lack wisdom”? The only answer to that dilemma is that you are NOT mature and complete and you did NOT pass the “testing of your faith.” So, when you ask God for wisdom, He sends you back around the mountain for another “dose” of trials. He does not find fault, just “generously” allows you to retake the test!
That answers another question: “Why can’t I ever catch a break? Why do I just keep going around in circles and never get ahead?” The answer is, “You didn’t pass the test (of your faith) last time so you have to re-take it. You went through verses 2, 3 & 4 but you still LACK something so you must go back to verse 2 again!
Note1: Ray Waldo holds a Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology earned at Mississippi State University.
Note2: Robin Sampsom has written a nice article on this. Read it at http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/when-trials-comes-rejoice/