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James 1:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

If any of you lack wisdom - Wisdom signifies in general knowledge of the best end, and the best means of attaining it; but in Scripture it signifies the same as true religion, the thorough practical knowledge of God, of one's self, and of a Savior.

Let him ask of God - Because God is the only teacher of this wisdom.

That giveth to all men liberally - Who has all good, and gives all necessary good to every one that asks fervently. He who does not ask thus does not feel his need of Divine teaching. The ancient Greek maxim appears at first view strange, but it is literally true: -

Αρχη γνωσεως της αγνοιας ἡ γνωσις .

"The knowledge of ignorance is the beginning of knowledge."

In knowledge we may distinguish these four things: -

  1. Intelligence, the object of which is intuitive truths.
  • Wisdom, which is employed in finding out the best end.
  • Prudence, which regulates the whole conduct through life.
  • 4. Art, which provides infallible rules to reason by.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    If any of you lack wisdom - Probably this refers particularly to the kind of wisdom which they would need in their trials, to enable them to bear them in a proper manner, for there is nothing in which Christians more feel the need of heavenly wisdom than in regard to the manner in which they should bear trials, and what they should do in the perplexities, and disappointments, and bereavements that come upon them; but the language employed is so general, that what is here said may be applied to the need of wisdom in all respects. The particular kind of wisdom which we need in trials is to enable us to understand their design and tendency; to perform our duty under them, or the new duties which may grow out of them; to learn the lessons which God designs to teach, for he always designs to teach us some valuable lessons by affliction; and to cultivate such views and feelings as are appropriate under the peculiar forms of trial which are brought upon us; to find out the sins for which we have been afflicted, and to learn how we may avoid them in time to come. We are in great danger of going wrong when we are afflicted; of complaining and murmuring; of evincing a spirit of rebellion, and of losing the benefits which we might have obtained if we had submitted to the trial in a proper manner. So in all things we “lack wisdom.” We are short-sighted; we have hearts prone to sin; and there are great and important matters pertaining to duty and salvation on which we cannot but feel that we need heavenly guidance.

    Let him ask of God - That is, for the specific wisdom which he needs; the very wisdom which is necessary for him in the particular case. It is proper to bear the very case before God; to make mention of the specific want; to ask of God to guide us in the very matter where we feel so much embarrassment. It is one of the privileges of Christians, that they may not only go to God and ask him for that general wisdom which is needful for them in life, but that whenever a particular emergency arises, a case of perplexity and difficulty in regard to duty, they may bring that particular thing before his throne, with the assurance that he will guide them. Compare Psalm 25:9; Isaiah 37:14; Joel 2:17.

    That giveth to all men liberally - The word men here is supplied by the translators, but not improperly, though the promise should be regarded as restricted to those who ask. The object of the writer was to encourage those who felt their need of wisdom, to go and ask it of God; and it would not contribute anything to furnish such a specific encouragement to say of God that he gives to all men liberally whether they ask or not. In the Scriptures, the promise of divine aid is always limited to the desire. No blessing is promised to man that is not sought; no man can feel that he has a right to hope for the favor of God, who does not value it enough to pray for it; no one ought to obtain it, who does not prize it enough to ask for it. Compare Matthew 7:7-8. The word rendered “liberally”

    d haploos - means, properly, “simply;” that is, in simplicity, sincerity, reality. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the corresponding noun occurs in Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 11:3, rendered simplicity; in 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:13, rendered “liberality,” and “liberal;” 2 Corinthians 9:11, rendered “bountifulness;” and Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22, rendered “singleness,” of the heart. The idea seems to be that of openness, frankness, generosity; the absence of all that is sordid and contracted; where there is the manifestation of generous feeling, and liberal conduct. In a higher sense than in the case of any man, all that is excellent in these things is to be found in God; and we may therefore come to him feeling that in his heart there is more that is noble and generous in bestowing favors than in any other being. There is nothing that is stinted and close; there is no partiality; there is no withholding of his favor because we are poor, and unlettered, and unknown.

    And upbraideth not - Does not reproach, rebuke, or treat harshly. He does not coldly repel us, if we come and ask what we need, though we do it often and with importunity. Compare Luke 18:1-7. The proper meaning of the Greek word is to rail at, reproach, revile, chide; and the object here is probably to place the manner in which God bestows his favors in contrast with what sometimes occurs among men. He does not reproach or chide us for our past conduct; for our foolishness; for our importunity in asking. He permits us to come in the most free manner, and meets us with a Spirit of entire kindness, and with promptness in granting our requests. We are not always sure, when we ask a favor of a man, that we shall not encounter something that will be repulsive, or that will mortify us; we are certain, however, when we ask a favor of God, that we shall never be reproached in an unfeeling manner, or meet with a harsh response.

    And it shall be given him - Compare Jeremiah 29:12-13; “Then shall ye call upon me, and go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with your whole heart.” See also Matthew 7:7-8; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14. This promise in regard to the wisdom that may be necessary for us, is absolute; and we may be sure that if it be asked in a proper manner it will be granted us. There can be no doubt that it is one of the things which God is able to impart; which will be for our own good; and which, therefore, he is ever ready to bestow. About many things there might be doubt whether, if they were granted, they would be for our real welfare, and therefore there may be a doubt whether it would be consistent for God to bestow them; but there can be no such doubt about wisdom. That is always for our good; and we may be sure, therefore, that we shall obtain that, if the request be made with a right spirit. If it be asked in what way we may expect he will bestow it on us, it may be replied:

    (1)That it is through his word - by enabling us to see clearly the meaning of the sacred volume, and to understand the directions which he has there given to guide us;

    (2)By the secret influences of his Spirit.

    (a) Suggesting to us the way in which we should go, and,

    (b) Inclining us to do that which is prudent and wise; and,

    (3)By the events of His Providence making plain to us the path of duty, and removing the obstructions which may be in our path. It is easy for God to guide his people; and they who “watch daily at the gates, and wait at the posts of the doors” of wisdom Proverbs 8:34, will not be in danger of going astray. Psalm 25:9.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God's love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 478

    In my earlier experiences in the message, I was called to meet this evil. During my labors in Europe and Australia, and more recently at the San Jose camp meeting in 1905, I had to bear my testimony of warning against it, because souls were being led to look to man for wisdom, instead of looking to God, who is our wisdom, our sanctification, and our righteousness. And now the same message has again been given me, more definite and decisive, because there has been a deeper offense to the Spirit of God. TM 478.1

    God is the Teacher of His people. All who humble their hearts before Him will be taught of God. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” The Lord wants every church member to pray earnestly for wisdom, that he may know what the Lord would have him do. It is the privilege of every believer to obtain an individual experience, learning to carry his cares and perplexities to God. It is written, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” TM 478.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Fundamentals of Christian Education, 299

    We have a powerful enemy, and not only does he hate every human being made in the image of God, but with bitterest enmity he hates God and His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. When men give themselves over to be the slaves of Satan, he does not manifest the enmity toward them which he does to those who bear the name of Christ, and give themselves to the service of God. He hates them with a deadly hatred. He knows that he can grieve Jesus by bringing them under the power of his deceptions, by injuring them, by weakening their faith, by making them incapable of doing God service as they are required to serve under their Captain Jesus Christ. Satan will permit those to have a degree of rest who are bound as slaves to his chariot, for they are his willing captives; but his enmity is aroused when the message of mercy reaches his bondslaves, and they seek to wrench themselves away from his power, that they may follow the true Shepherd. Then it is that he seeks to bind them with additional chains to hold them in their captivity. The conflict between the soul and Satan begins when the captive begins to tug at the chain, and longs to be free; for it is then that the human agent begins to co-operate with heavenly intelligences, when faith takes hold on Christ. Then it is that the Stronger than the strong man armed, is the helper of the soul, and the poor captive is strengthened by the Holy Spirit to obtain his freedom. FE 299.1

    God has a deep and earnest love for every member of the human family; not one is forgotten, not one is left helpless and deceived to be overcome by the enemy. And if those who have enlisted in the army of Christ will put on the whole armor of God, and wear it, they will be proof against all the assaults of the enemy. Those who really desire to be taught of God, and to walk in His way, have the sure promise that if they feel their lack of wisdom and ask of God, He will give liberally, and upbraid not. The apostle says, “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” God is behind every promise, and we cannot dishonor Him more than by questioning and hesitating, by asking and not believing, and then by talking doubt. If you do not immediately receive what you have asked for, will you go on in sullenness and unbelief? Believe; believe that God will do just what He has promised. Keep your prayers ascending, and watch, work, and wait. Fight the good fight of faith. Say to your heart, “God has invited me to come. He has heard my prayer. He has pledged His word that he will receive me, and He will fulfil His promise. I can trust God; for He so loved me that He gave His only-begotten Son to die for me. The Son of God is my Redeemer.” “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” FE 299.2

    The youth who enter and continue their school life with the true object before them, will not be homesick or disappointed. They will not be restless and uneasy, not knowing what to do with themselves. They will find a helper in the Omnipotent One. They will have one aim in view, and that is to be men and women of principle, who will meet God's standard, and benefit humanity and glorify God. They will not regard their school life as a time for pleasure seeking, for idle amusement and foolish frolic, but will endeavor to make the most of their God-given opportunities and privileges, so that they shall not disappoint their parents and teachers, or grieve God and heavenly intelligences. FE 300.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 376

    The Lord has a controversy with His people over this matter. Why have they left the Lord their God, who so loved them “that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”? His love is not uncertain and fluctuating, but is as far above all other love as the heavens are above the earth. Ever He watches over His children with a love that is measureless and everlasting. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” TM 376.1

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Mercy and love and wisdom are to be found in God; but many who profess to know Him have turned from the One in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, and have educated themselves to depend upon their erring and fallible fellowmen. They are crippled spiritually when they do this; for no man is infallible, and his influence may be misleading. He who trusts in man not only leans upon a broken reed, and gives Satan an opportunity to introduce himself, but he hurts the one in whom the trust is placed; he becomes lifted up in his estimation of himself, and loses the sense of his dependence upon God. Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God's power. Moral confusion results, because his powers become unsanctified and perverted. He feels competent to judge his fellowmen, and he strives unlawfully to be a God over them. TM 376.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 323-5

    Advice is asked of those in Battle Creek regarding matters which could just as well be settled by men on the ground, if they would seek the Lord, and which ought to have been done within their own borders. The Lord declares He is nigh to all that call upon Him with a sincere heart. Said Christ, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” This promise is made doubly and trebly sure. There is no failure with God. Today men who are presidents of conferences are less efficient and strong and able than they should be, because they place man where God should be, and they receive only that which man can give them. TM 323.1

    Presidents of conferences, you will be wise if you will decide to come to God. Believe in Him. He will hear your prayers, and come to your assistance, in much less time than the public conveyances could take one, two, three, or four men from a long distance, at a great expense, to decide questions which the God of wisdom can decide far better for you. He has promised, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If you will sincerely humble your hearts before Him, empty your souls of self-esteem, and put away the natural defects of your character, and overcome your love of supremacy, and come to God as little children, He will bestow on you His Holy Spirit. When two or three shall agree as touching anything, and shall ask the Lord, in the name of Jesus, it shall be done for them. TM 323.2

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