Read James 1:5-8
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. (NLT)
Only the foolish reckon they don’t need wisdom. The wisest thing we can ask for is wisdom. This passage assures us that God doesn’t ration out wisdom in some miserly fashion. If we ask for it, we will get it. But we must be sure what ‘it’ is. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to interpret our knowledge and act on it. To illustrate: Charlie Steinmetz was one of Henry Ford’s engineers in the early days of car manufacturing. One day, a generator broke down disrupting the entire plant. Ford called Steinmetz in to fix it, which he did. He sent a bill for $10,000 to Ford. “Why should I pay you $10,000 for 10 minutes tinkering with that machine?”, he asked. Steinmetz then sent back a more detailed bill: “For tinkering with the machine, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9990.”
In some translations, this passage seems to suggest that if we don’t have absolute and complete faith when we ask then we won’t get it. However, the New Living Translation (wisely!) expresses it differently. When we ask for wisdom, we need to be asking with the intention of pursuing the God-given direction that is offered. If we have divided hearts, tossing up whether or not God’s way is best, chances are we won’t discern God’s way. If we are intent on obeying God, then God will show us how best to do it. He won’t give us a preview of his wise way forward if we just want to throw it into the mix of our own more self-centred ideas as well. He won’t play such games with us.
Whether our faith is weak or strong is beside the point. We don’t have to go through the weary and futile process of building up our faith before we come to God for wisdom. The act of coming to God in itself will build our faith. God gives wisdom to the weak and the strong. His only prerequisite is that we be serious about getting his wisdom and intent in our own always-imperfect way of following it. Wisdom comes to those who know just how badly they need it, and just how wise is the wisdom of God.