James 1:5
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.
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(5) If any of you lack wisdom.—The Apostle passes on to the thought of heavenly wisdom; not the knowledge of the deep things of God, but that which is able to make us wise unto our latter end (Proverbs 19:20). Few may be able, save in self-conceit, to say with Isaiah (Isaiah 50:4), “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned;” and, on the other hand, the wisest and most gifted of men may truly be wanting in the wisdom descending from above.

Let him ask of God.—But whoever, learned or unlearned, feels in his heart the need of the knowledge of God, since to know Him “is eternal life” (John 17:3), “let him ask” for it in all purity of intention, simply, i.e., for His honour and service, “and it shall be given him.”

That giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.—“Liberally” had better, perhaps, be changed to simply—i.e., God gives fully and directly, and reproacheth (or, “upbraideth”) not the utterance of such a prayer, in no way detracting from the graciousness of His gifts. How wide the difference from any generosity of man I “Yea,” wrote Dante, in exile at Verona,

“. . . thou shalt learn how salt his food, who fares

Upon another’s bread.—how steep his path,

Who treadeth up and down another’s stairs.”

“The fool,” said the wise son of Sirach, “giveth little, and upbraideth much . . ., and is hated of God and man” (Ecclesiasticus 20:15).



Jam 1:5.

‘IF any of you lack.’ James has just used the same word in the previous verse, and it is to be regretted that the principle upon which our authorised translators went of varying the rendering of identical expressions, masks the repetition here. James has just been telling his brethren that their aim should be to be ‘perfect and entire, lacking nothing.’ And that thought naturally suggests the other one of how great the contrast is between that possible completeness and the actual condition of Christians in general. So he gently and courteously puts, as a hypothesis, what is only too certain a fact in those to whom he is speaking; and says, not as he might have done, ‘since you all lack,’ but, with gracious forbearance, ‘if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.’

Now, it seems to me that, in this hypothetical exhortation there are three points to be noted, two of them being somewhat unlike what we should have looked for. One is the great deficiency in the average Christian character - wisdom; another is the great means of supplying it - ask; and the third is the great guarantee of the supply - the giving God, whose gifts are bestowed on all liberally and without upbraiding.

I. The great deficiency in the average Christian character - wisdom.

Now, that is not exactly what we should have expected to be named as the main thing lacking in the average Christian. If we had been asked to specify the chief defect we should probably have thought of something else than wisdom. But, if we remember who is speaking, we shall understand better what he means by this word. James is a Jew, steeped through and through in the Old Testament. We have only to recall the Book of Proverbs, and what it has to say about ‘wisdom’ and ‘folly,’ by which it means something a great deal deeper and more living than knowledge and ignorance or intellectual strength and feebleness, or practical sagacity and its opposite. That deeper conception of wisdom which bases it all on ‘the fear of the Lord,’ and regards it as moral and spiritual and not as merely or chiefly intellectual, pervades the whole New Testament. This Epistle is more of an echo of the earlier revelation than any other part of the New Testament, and we may be quite sure that James uses this venerable word with all the associations of its use there, and in all the solemn depth of meaning which he had learned to attach to it, on the lips of psalmists, prophets, and teachers of the true wisdom. If that were at all doubtful, it is made certain by his own subsequent description of ‘wisdom.’ He says that it is ‘from above,’ and then goes on to ascribe all manner of moral and spiritual good to its presence and working on a man. It is ‘pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.’ You cannot say such glowing things about the wisdom which has its seat in the understanding only, can you? These characteristics must apply to something a great deal more august and more powerful in shaping and refining character.

What, then, does James mean by ‘wisdom’? He means the sum of practical religion. With him, as with the psalmist, sin and folly are two names for the same thing, and so are religion and wisdom. He, and only he, has wisdom who knows God with a living heart-knowledge which gives a just insight into the facts of life and the bounds of right and wrong, and which regulates conduct and shapes the whole man with power far beyond that of knowledge however wide and deep, illuminating intellect however powerful. ‘Knowledge’ is poor and superficial in comparison with this wisdom, which may roughly be said to be equivalent to practical religion.

The use of this expression to indicate the greatest deficiency in the average Christian character, just suggests this thought, that if we had a clear, constant, certain, God-regarding insight into things as they are, we should lack little. Because, if a man habitually kept vividly before him the thought of God, and with it the true nature and obligation and blessedness of righteous, loving obedience, and the true foulness and fatalness of sin - if he saw these with the clearness and the continuity with which we may all see the things that are unseen and eternal, if he ‘saw life steadily, and saw it whole,’ if he saw the rottenness and the shallowness of earthly things and temptations, and if he saw the blessed issue of every God-pleasing act - why! the perfecting of conduct would be secured.

It would be an impossibility for him, with all that illumination blazing in upon him, not to walk in the paths of righteousness with a glad and serene heart. I do not believe that all sin is a consequence of ignorance, but I do believe that our average Christian life would be revolutionised if we each carried clear before us, and continually subjected our lives to the influence of, the certain verities of God’s word.

And, brethren, I think that there is a practical direction of no small importance here, in the suggestion that the thing that we want most is clearer and more vivid conceptions of the realities of the Christian revelation, and of the facts of human life. These will act as tests, and up will start in his own shape the fiend that is whispering at our ears, when touched by the spear of this divine wisdom. So, brethren, here is our root-deficiency; therefore instead of confining ourselves to trying to cure isolated and specific faults, or to attain isolated and specific virtues, let us go deeper down, and realise that the more our whole natures are submitted to the power of God’s truth, and of the realities of the future and of the present, of Time and Eternity, the nearer shall we come to being ‘perfect and entire,’ lacking nothing.

II. We have next to note the great means of supplying that great deficiency - ‘let him ask.’

Thai direction might at first sight strike one as being, like the specification of the thing lacking, scarcely what we should have expected. Does James say, If any of you lack ‘wisdom,’ let him sit down and think? No! ‘If any of you lack wisdom,’ let him take a course of reading? No! ‘If any of you lack wisdom,’ let him go to pundits and rabbis, and get it from them? No! ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask.’ A strange apparent disconnection between the issue and the means suggested! Very strange, if wisdom lives only up in the head! not so strange if it has its seat in the depths of the human spirit. If you want to learn theology you have to study. If you seek to master any science you have to betake yourself to the appropriate discipline. It is. of no use to pray to God to make you a good geologist, or botantist, or lawyer, or doctor, unless you also take the necessary means to become one. But if a man wants the divine wisdom, let him get down on his knees. That is the best place to secure it. ‘Let him ask’; because that insight, so clear, so vivid, so constant, and so perfectly adequate for the regulation of the life, is of God. It comes to us from the Spirit of God that dwells in men’s hearts.

I believe that in nothing is the ordinary type of Christian opinion amongst us, in this generation, so defective as in the obscurity into which it has pushed that truth, of the Spirit of God as actually dwelling in men’s hearts. And that, I believe, is to a large extent the reason why the other truths of Christianity have so little power upon people. It is of little use to hold a Christianity which begins and ends with the fact of Christ’s death on the Cross. It is of less use, no doubt, to hold a Christianity which does not begin with that death. But if it ends there, it is imperfect because, as the Apostle put it, our Christ, the Christ who sends wisdom to those who ask it, is the ‘Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,’ and sends down His Spirit on us.

And to receive that spirit of wisdom, the one thing necessary is that we should want it. That is all. Nothing more, but nothing less. I doubt very much whether hosts of the average Christian people of this generation do want it, or would know what to do with it if they had it; or whether the gift of a heart purged from delusions, and of eyes made clear always to behold the God who is ever with us, and the real importance of the things around us, is the gift that most of us pray for most. ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask.’ It is a gift, and it is to he obtained from that Holy Spirit who dwells and works in all believers. The measure of their desire is the measure of their possession. That wisdom can be had for the asking, and is not to be won by proudly self-reliant effort.

But let us not think that any kind of ‘asking’ suffices to put that great gift into our hearts. The petition that avails must be sincere, intense, constant, and accompanied by corresponding conduct.

It is not dropping down on your knees for two minutes in a morning, before you hurry out to business, and scrambling over a formal petition; or praying after you have gone to bed at night, and perhaps falling asleep before you get to ‘Amen.’ It is not asking, and then not waiting long enough to get the answer. It is not faint and feeble desire, but one presented with continuity which is not shameless importunity, but patient persistence. It must breathe intense desire and perfect confidence in the willingness of the Giver and in the power of prayer.

If our vessels are empty or nearly so, while the stream is rolling its broad, flashing flood past our doors, if we sit shivering beside dying embers while the fire blazes high on the hearth, let us awake to recognise the tragic difference between what we might be and what we are, and let us listen to James’s other word, ‘Ye have not because ye ask not.’ ‘If any of you lack wisdom’ - and, alas! how many of us do, and that how sorely! - ‘let him ask of God.’

III. The great guarantee that such petitions shall be answered.

James has an arrangement of words in the original which can scarcely be reproduced in an English translation, but which may be partially represented thus: ‘Let him ask of the giving God.’ That represents not so much the divine giving as an act, but, if I may so say, as a divine habit. It is just what the Prayer-book says, ‘His nature and property is to have mercy.’ He is the giving God, because He is the loving God; for love is essentially the impulse to impart itself to the beloved, and thereby to win the beloved for itself. That is the very life-breath of love, and such is the love of God. There is a must even for that heavenly nature. He must bestow. He is the ‘giving’; and He is the blessed God because He is the loving and the giving God. Just as the sun cannot but pour out his rays, so the very activity of the divine nature is beneficence and self-impartation; and His joy is to grant Himself to His creature, whom He has made empty for the very purpose of giving all of Himself that the creature is capable of receiving.

But not only does James give us this great guarantee in the character of God, but he goes on to say, ‘ He giveth to all men. ‘I suppose that all’ must be limited by what follows - viz., ‘He gives to all who ask.’

‘He gives to all men liberally. ‘ That is a beautiful thought, but it is not the whole beauty of the writer’s idea. The word translated ‘liberally,’ as many of you know, literally means ‘simply, without any by-ends,’ or any underlying thought of what is to be gained in return. That is the way in which God gives. People have sometimes objected to the doctrine of which the Scripture is full from beginning to end, that God is His own motive, and that His reason in all His acts is His own glory, that it teaches a kind of almighty and divine selfishness. But it is perfectly consistent with this thought of my text, that He gives simply for the benefit of the recipient, and without a thought of what may accrue to the bestower. For why does God desire His glory to be advanced in the world? For any good that it is to Him, that you and I should praise Him? Yes! good to Him in so far as love delights to be recognised. But, beyond that, none. The reason why He seeks that men should know and recognise His glory, and should praise and magnify it, is because it is their life and their blessedness to do so. He desires that all men should know Him for what He is, because to do so is to come to be what we ought to be, and what He has made us to try to be; and therein to enjoy Him for ever. So ‘liberally,’ ‘simply,’ for the sake of the poor men that He pours Himself upon, He gives.

And ‘without upbraiding.’ If it were not so, who of us dare ask? But He does not say when we come to Him, ‘ What did you do with that last gift I gave you? Were you ever thankful enough for those other benefits that you have had? What is become of all those? Go away and make a better use of what you have had before you come and ask Me for any more.’ That is how we often talk to one another; and rightly enough. That is not how God talks to us. Time enough for upbraiding after the child has the gift in his hand! Then, as Christ did to Peter, He says, having rescued him first, ‘Oh! thou of little faith; wherefore didst thou doubt?’ The truest rebuke of our misuse of His benefits, of our faithlessness to His character, and of the poverty of our askings, is the largeness of His gifts. He gives us these, and then He bids us go away, and profit by them, and, in the light of His bestowments, preach rebukes to ourselves for the poverty of our askings and our squandering of His gift.

Oh, brethren! if we only believed that He is not an austere man, gathering where He did not straw, and reaping where He did not sow, but a ‘giving God!’ If we only believed that He gives simply because He loves us and that we need never fear our unworthiness will limit or restrain His bestowments, what mountains of misconception of the divine character would he rolled away from many hearts! What thick obscuration of clouds would he swept clean from between us and the sun! We do not half enough realise that He is the ‘giving God.’ Therefore, our prayers are poor, and our askings troubled and faint, and our gifts to Him are grudging and few, and our wisdom woefully lacking.

James 1:5-7. If any of you — In whole or in part; lack wisdom — To understand whence and why temptations come, and how they are to be improved, or for any other purpose. Wisdom, in the common acceptation of the word, denotes a sound practical judgment concerning things to be done or avoided: but here the expression seems to mean wisdom to know how to conduct ourselves under afflictions, or how to make a right use of them. Patience is in every pious man already; let him exercise this, and ask for wisdom. The sum of wisdom, how to conduct ourselves in the trial of poverty, on the one hand, and riches, on the other, is described in the 9th and 10th verses. The connection between the second and following verses of this chapter will be easily discerned by him who reads them while he is suffering wrongfully. He will then readily perceive why the apostle mentions all these various affections of the mind. Let him ask of God — The eternal fountain of wisdom, as well as of grace; that giveth to all — That ask aright; liberally — Freely and richly; and upbraideth not

Either with their past sinfulness or present unworthiness. But let him ask in faith — With a firm confidence in the power, love, and faithfulness of God. St. James also both begins and ends with faith, James 5:15; the hinderances of which he removes in the middle part of his epistle; nothing wavering — Or doubting, as διακρινομενος frequently and properly signifies; or not divided in his mind, between the desires of obtaining and the fears of not obtaining the grace he asks; or not questioning God’s willingness to bestow it. For he that wavereth — Or doubteth, and therefore is divided in his mind, as just observed, and who does not firmly confide in the goodness and faithfulness of God, can have no other solid and substantial support, but is like a wave of the sea — Restless and inconstant; driven with the wind to and fro, and tossed about at its mercy; is unsettled and irresolute. Let not that man — Who thus yields to diffidence and distrust; think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord — While he continues in such an unstable and wavering state of mind, and dares not rely on God for those supplies of grace which he professes to seek. Such unreasonable doubts and suspicions, as they wrong the divine goodness, so they may, in many instances, prevent the communication of those favours which might otherwise be obtained.

1:1-11 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.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" 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.

5. English Version omits "But," which the Greek has, and which is important. "But (as this perfect entireness wanting nothing is no easy attainment) if any," &c.

lack—rather, as the Greek word is repeated after James's manner, from Jas 1:4, "wanting nothing," translate, "If any of you want wisdom," namely, the wisdom whereby ye may "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations," and "let patience have her perfect work." This "wisdom" is shown in its effects in detail, Jas 3:7. The highest wisdom, which governs patience alike in poverty and riches, is described in Jas 1:9, 10.

ask—(Jas 4:2).

liberally—So the Greek is rendered by English Version. It is rendered with simplicity, Ro 12:8. God gives without adding aught which may take off from the graciousness of the gift [Alford]. God requires the same "simplicity" in His children ("eye … single," Mt 6:22, literally, "simple").

upbraideth not—an illustration of God's giving simply. He gives to the humble suppliant without upbraiding him with his past sin and ingratitude, or his future abuse of God's goodness. The Jews pray, "Let me not have need of the gifts of men, whose gifts are few, but their upbraidings manifold; but give me out of Thy large and full hand." Compare Solomon's prayer for "wisdom," and God's gift above what he asked, though God foresaw his future abuse of His goodness would deserve very differently. James has before his eye the Sermon on the Mount (see my [2603]Introduction). God hears every true prayer and grants either the thing asked, or else something better than it; as a good physician consults for his patient's good better by denying something which the latter asks not for his good, than by conceding a temporary gratification to his hurt.

If any of you lack wisdom; if, doth not imply a doubt, but supposeth something which they themselves would grant; viz. that they did lack wisdom, either in whole or in part. It is as if he had said, Since, or seeing, ye lack, &c. See the like, Malachi 1:6. Though this hold true of wisdom taken more generally, yet wisdom here is to be restrained, according to the circumstances of the text, and taken for wisdom or skill to bear afflictions so as to rejoice in them.

Let him ask of God; by believing, fervent prayer.

That giveth to all men; either to all sorts of men, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, &c., or to all that so ask, as appears by the next verse.

Liberally; or simply, Romans 12:8, i.e. with an open, free, large heart, in opposition to the contracted, narrow spirits of covetous misers. Our translation renders it well liberally; and so the word is used, 2 Corinthians 8:2 9:13.

And upbraideth not; doth not twit them with their importunity, or frequency in asking, (as men often do), however he may upbraid them with their unthankfulness for, or abuse of, what they have received.

And it shall be given him: see Matthew 7:7,8 Joh 16:23. The promise is here added to encourage faith in asking.

If any of you lack wisdom,.... This shows that the perfection before spoken of is not to be understood as in this life, since the apostle immediately supposes lack of wisdom in them; for this is not said in a form of doubting, whether they wanted it or not, but rather as supposing, and taking it for granted that they did; and in the first, and primary sense of the words, it intends wisdom to behave aright under temptations or afflictions. Saints often want wisdom to consider God as the author of them, and not look upon them as matters of chance, or impute them merely to second causes; but to regard them as coming from the hand of God, and as his hand upon them, as Job did; who does not ascribe his calamities to the thieving Chaldeans and Sabeans, to the boisterous wind, and to the malice of Satan, but to God: they want wisdom to observe the sovereignty of God in them, and bow unto it, and be still, and know that he is God, who does all things well and wisely; and likewise to see and know that all are in love, and in very faithfulness, and for good; as well as to see his name, to hear his rod, and him that has appointed it, his voice in it, his mind and meaning, and what he designs by it; as likewise to learn the useful lessons under it, and particularly to take the cross well, to bear it patiently, and even to count it all joy, and reckon it to be right, necessary, and useful: it requires much wisdom to learn all this, and act up to it. Moreover, this may be applied to all other cases, in which wisdom is wanted; men want wisdom to conduct them in the common affairs of life, and especially the people of God; for the children of the world are wiser in their generation, for themselves and posterity, and in the management of worldly affairs, than the children of light; and also to observe the providences of God, and the footsteps of Providence, and to follow them; and likewise to make a right use of providences, and behave suitably under them, and not be lifted up too much in prosperity, nor be cast down, and too much distressed in adversity; but to consider, that the one is set against the other, and both work together for good. Saints have need of wisdom in things spiritual; they want more grace, which is the truest wisdom, and a larger knowledge of the Gospel, which is the wisdom of God, the hidden wisdom of God; and they lack wisdom to know how to walk towards them that are without, and towards them that are within, so as becomes the Gospel of Christ: and as this is more or less the case of everyone

let him ask of God wisdom; of God the Father, who is the only wise God, who has abounded in creation, in providence, and, above all, in redemption and grace, in all wisdom and prudence; and of his Son Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom of God, and has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in him; and of the Spirit of God, who is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, and all divine things:

that giveth to all men liberally; God is the giver of all good things, in nature, providence, and grace; every good and perfect gift comes from him, and therefore he, and he only, should be applied unto: and he gives to "all men" the bounties of his providence; and to all that ask, and call upon him in sincerity, the riches of his grace; even to Jews and Gentiles, high and low, rich and poor, greater or lesser sinners; all which he gives "liberally", readily, and at once, freely and cheerfully, and largely and abundantly; not grudgingly, sparingly, and with a strait hand, but with an open one, and in a very extensive manner.

And upbraideth not; with former sins and transgressions, with former miscarriages and misconduct; or with former kindnesses, suggesting that he had given largely already, and his favours had been despised or abused; or he had been treated with ingratitude and neglect; in which manner sometimes men put off those that apply unto them, but so does not God; wherefore every word here used is encouraging to go to God for wisdom: yea, it follows,

and it shall be given him; God has said it, Christ has promised it, and the apostle might, with certainty, say it after them, and all experience confirms the truths of it; See Matthew 7:7.

{5} If any of you lack {e} wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

(5) An answer to a private objection; It is easily said, but not so easily done. He answers that we need, in this case, a different type of wisdom than the wisdom of man, to determine those things that are best for us, since they are disagreeable to the flesh: but we shall easily obtain this gift of wisdom, if we ask correctly, that is, with a sure confidence in God, who is entirely bountiful and liberal.

(e) By wisdom he means the knowledge of that doctrine previously mentioned, that is, why we are afflicted by God, and the fruit we reap from affliction.

Jam 1:5. εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας] is chiefly connected with ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. εἰ is not = quoniam, quandoquidem (Estius, Laurentius), but the thought is hypothetical; εἴ τις = ὅστις; see Wahl on the word εἰ.

λείπεται σοφίας is to be explained as κτεάνων λειφθεὶς καὶ φίλων, in Pindar i. 2. 11, “without wealth and friends,” properly “left behind of, or falling short of;” accordingly without wisdom. Usually the meaning wanting, lacking, is given to λείπομαι, which, however, is not linguistically justified. James by σοφία, as Wiesinger correctly observes, does not mean “an arbitrary part of Christian perfection,” but the essential foundation of Christian conduct, τὸ αἴτιον τοῦ τελείου ἔργου (Oecumenius); for σοφία is here the living insight, rooted in the πίστις, i.e. the insight compelling to action in what is the Christian’s duty, both in whole and in its particular parts, especially in the πειρασμοῖς (Jam 1:2) (comp. the praise of wisdom in the Proverbs of Solomon, in the Wisdom of Solomon, and in the Book of Ecclesiasticus). Wisdom can only be given by God (κύριος δίδωσι σοφίαν καὶ ἀπὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ γνῶσις καὶ σύνεσις, Proverbs 2:6), and as a divine χάρισμα it has an impress definitely distinguishing it from the wisdom of the world; see chap. Jam 3:15; Jam 3:17.[44] The connection does not constrain us, with Bouman and others, to conceive the idea of σοφία only in reference to the πειρασμοί (Jam 1:2), and to understand by it only the doctrine concerning the Christian conduct in the πειρασμοῖς, expressed in Jam 1:2 (Calvin: Sapientiae nomen ad circumstantiam praestantis loci restringo, acsi dicerete. si haec doctrina ingenii vestri captu altior est, petite a Domino, ut vos Spiritu suo illuminet), or that conduct itself. The idea of σοφία is rather to be understood in its completeness (Theile, de Wette, Kern, Wiesinger). The reason why James here mentions it is because it was especially necessary to the Christian in his πειρασμοῖς; Brückner: “James thinks here of wisdom (in itself of a more general acceptation), inasmuch as it is necessary rightly to estimate and rightly to resist the trial, in order that it might not be converted into an internal temptation, instead of being the path to perfection.”[45]

ΑἸΤΕΊΤΩ ΠΑΡᾺ Κ.Τ.Λ.] the same construction in Matthew 20:20; Acts 3:2; 1 John 5:15.

ΤΟῦ ΔΊΔΟΝΤΟς ΘΕΟῦ] instead of ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ΤΟῦ ΔΊΔΟΝΤΟς, as Codex A reads. By the selected order of the words here, not only is the idea of giving emphatically placed near to the request, but also the participle almost becomes an attributive adjective; God is indicated as the Giver absolutely. Accordingly—as Baumgarten, Gebser, and others correctly remark—no definite object as ΤῊΝ ΣΟΦΊΑΝ (Bouman) is to be supplied.

ΠᾶΣΙΝ and ἉΠΛῶς are added as a more detailed statement; ΤΟῖς ΑἸΤΟῦΣΙΝ is from the context to be supplied to ΠᾶΣΙΝ (Calvin, Estius, Piscator, Laurentius, etc.); or, better still, ΟἾς ΔΊΔΩΣΙ. The adverb ἉΠΛῶς, only here in the N. T., is either to be understood as an ethical additional statement of ΔΊΔΟΝΑΙ = ἘΝ ἉΠΛΌΤΗΤΙ (Romans 12:8) (so Pott, Hottinger, Kern, Theile, Bouman, uncertainly Wiesinger), or = simply, without further ceremony (so de Wette).[46] In the latter case it is prominently brought forward that God in the giving had only this in view. It is incorrectly rendered benigne (Bede, Vorstius, and others), affluenter (Erasmus, Grotius, and others), or as equivalent to συντόμως, καθάπαξ (Hesychius). By μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος—as καί shows

ἁπλῶς is not more closely defined, but a new point in the mode of the divine giving is added, and so that He does not reproach him to whom He gives, does not abuse him. ὀνειδίζειν is generally taken in the more special sense of upbraiding (Luther: “and upbraideth no man”); for which the expression in Demosthenes is appealed to: τὸ τὰς ἰδίας εὐεργεσίας ὑπομιμνήσκειν καὶ λέγειν μικροῦ δεῖν ὅμοιόν ἐστι τῷ ὀνειδίζειν; still more surely does Plutarch, de aud. 33, speak for this meaning: πᾶσα ὀνειδιζομένη χάρις ἐπαχθὴς καὶ ἄχαρις; also in Sir 18:18; Sir 20:15; Sir 41:22, the word appears to have this more special reference.[47] Still there is no proof that James did not take it in its more general sense. Semler: non tantum significat molestam commemorationem beneficiorem, sed etiam qualemcunque reprehensionem (so also Schneckenburger, de Wette).[48] It is incorrect to explain ὀνειδίζειν as equivalent to aliquem ignominose cum repulsa dimittere (Morus, Zachariae, Carpzov, Storr, Augusti, Stolz, Hottinger); the refusal of a petitioner may be considered as a ΚΑΤΑΙΣΧΎΝΕΙΝ of the same, but ὈΝΕΙΔΊΖΕΙΝ never occurs in this sense, not even in Sir 20:15. The reason why James subjoins the particular statement ἉΠΛῶς Κ.Τ.Λ. is by it to encourage to ΑἸΤΕῖΝ (Zwinglius: ut mentes alliciat, ut ad hunc unum in omni necessitate adcurrant); perhaps also with “a side glance to the rich” (Jam 1:10, chap. Jam 5:9 ff.), who do not give ἉΠΛῶς, and when they do give, give only ὈΝΕΙΔΊΖΟΝΤΕς (Wiesinger).

ΚΑῚ ΔΟΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ ΑὐΤῷ] impersonal: “it shall be given him;” namely, what he asks; here, wisdom. It is erroneous directly to supply Ἡ ΣΟΦΊΑ to ΔΟΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ as the subject (Lange), because James here evidently wishes to emphasize the relation of the giving to the asking, and accordingly the object is suppressed; comp. on this thought particularly 1 Kings 3:9-12 (2 Chronicles 1:10-12).

[44] The Etymologicum magnum thus gives the distinction between σοφία and γνῶσις: γνῶσις μέν ἐστι τὸ εἰδέναι τὰ ὄντα· σοφία δὲ καὶ τὸ τὰ ὄντα γινώσκειν, καὶ τὸ τὰ γνωστὰ πράττειν.

[45] Lange, indeed, defends the explanation of Calvin, but he interprets the idea of σοφία differently from Calvin, defining it as “the right perception of the signs of the times, and of the christological fulfilment of the theocracy in the church as well as in the faith of individuals.”

[46] Both of these explanations come essentially to the same thing, for “he that giveth with simplicity will simply give; it will be a pure, unmingled giving, without any admixture” (Stier). Lange, without reason, maintains that in this commentary ἀπλῶς will refer not to the giving, but to the gift.

[47] In this sense exprobare is used in Latin, e.g. Cicero, de amic.: Odiosum sane genus hominum officia exprobantium.

[48] Eustathius: ὀνειδίζειν οὐ μόνον τὸ εὐεργεσίας ἀναφέρειν τοῖς εὐεργετημένοιςἀλλὰ καὶ ἁπλῶς ἀνοστά τινα καὶ ἐπίμομφα λέγειν. The assertion of Lange is unfounded, that James, according to this exposition, would utter an untenable sentiment, “because God, notwithstanding those who ask, often inflicts injuries on men.” Lange has not considered that the passage treats only of asking.

Jam 1:5. There is no thought-connection between this verse and what has preceded, it is only by supplying something artificially that any connection can be made to exist, and for this there is no warrant in the text as it stands (see Introduction III.). In Jam 1:4 ὑπομονή has as its full result the making perfect of men, so that they are lacking in nothing; when, therefore, the next verse goes on to contemplate a lacking of wisdom, there is clearly the commencement of a new subject, not a continuation of the same one. The occurrence of λειπόμενοι and λείπεται, which is regarded by some as a proof of connection between the two verses, denotes nothing in view of the fact that the subject-matter is so different; moreover, there is a distinct difference in the sense in which this word is used in these two verses; coming behindhand in what one ought to attain to is quite different from not being in possession of the great gift of wisdom; this difference is well brought out by the Vulgate rendering: “… in nullo deficientes. Si quis autem vestrum indiget sapientia …”—εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας Cf. Jam 3:13-17; the position assigned to Wisdom by the Jews, and especially by Hellenistic Jews, was so exalted that a short consideration of the subject seems called for, the more so by reason of the prominence it assumes in this Epistle. It is probable that the more advanced ideas of Wisdom came originally from Babylon; for, according to the Babylonian cosmology, Wisdom existed in primeval ages before the creation of the world; it dwelt with Ea, the god of Wisdom, in the depths of the sea (cf. Proverbs 8:22-30); Ea the creator was therefore guided by Wisdom in his creative work (see Jeremias, Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients, pp. 29, 80); in Biblical literature Wisdom became the all-discerning intelligence of God in His work of Creation; as it was needed by God Himself, how much more by men! Hence the constant insistence on its need which is so characteristic of the book of Proverbs. This laid the foundation for the extensive Ḥokmah (or Wisdom) literature of the Hellenistic Jews, which exercised also a great influence upon the Jews of later times. Under the influence of Greek philosophy Wisdom became not only a divine agency, but also assumed a personal character (Wis 7:22-30). According to the Jerusalem Targum to Gen. i. 1 Wisdom was the principle whereby God created the world. Generally speaking, in the later Jewish literature Wisdom refers to worldly knowledge as distinct from religious knowledge which is all comprised under the term Torah (“Law”); and therefore Wisdom, unlike the Torah, was not regarded as the exclusive possession of the Jews, though these had it in more abundant measure, e.g., it is said in Kiddushin, 49 b: “Ten measures of wisdom came down from heaven, and nine of them tell to the lot of the Holy Land”. On the other hand, Wisdom and the Torah are often identified.—αἰτείτω: for the prayer for Wisdom, cf. Proverbs 2:3 f.; Wis 7:7; Wis 9:4; Sir 1:10; Sir 51:13; in the Epistle of Barnabas xxi. 5, it says: ὁ Θεὸς δῴη ὑμῖν σοφίανὑπομονήνπαρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς: there is an interesting parallel to this thought in the opening treatise of the Talmud, Berachoth, 58 b: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who hast imparted of Thy wisdom to flesh and blood”; the point of the words “flesh and blood” is that the reference is to Gentiles as well as Jews, corresponding thus to the πᾶσιν in the words before us. The force of ἁπλῶς lies in its sense of “singleness of aim,” the aim being the imparting of benefit without requiring anything in return; the thought is the same as that which underlies Isaiah 55:1, Ho, every one that thirsteth … come, buy wine and milk without money and without price, i.e., it is to be had for the asking.—μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος: the addition of this is very striking; it is intended to encourage boldness in making petition to God; many might be deterred, owing to a sense of unworthiness, from approaching God, fearing lest He should resent presumption. The three words which express the method of Divine giving—πᾶσιν, ἁπλῶς, μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος—must take away all scruple and fear; cf. Hebrews 4:16, Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace.…—καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ: Cf. Matthew 7:7.

5–8. Wisdom, and the Prayer that gains it

5. If any of you lack wisdom] As before, in James 1:1-2, the prominent word of the preceding clause suggests the opening of the next, the word for “lack” being the same as the “wanting” in the previous verse. The prominence thus given to wisdom is characteristic of the teaching of St James (comp. ch. James 3:13-17). It is as though he had largely fashioned his thoughts of the spiritual life on the teaching of the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, perhaps also on the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus. Wisdom, in its good sense, stands, in New Testament language, as implying both a wider range of thought and a more direct influence on conduct than knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8; Colossians 2:3).

that giveth to all men liberally] Literally, simply, but as to give simply, without reserve or arrière pensée, is to give freely, both the adverb and the corresponding noun often carried with them the idea of liberality (comp. Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13). The thought is that God gives absolutely all good gifts to those that ask Him (Matthew 6:11), and the highest gift, that of the Spirit that imparts wisdom, is included in the promise (Luke 11:13).

and upbraideth not] The word implies a contrast with human givers who too often, at the time or afterwards, mar their bounty with bitter and reproachful speeches. There seems here a direct allusion to the description in Sir 20:15, of “the gift of a fool,” “He giveth little and upbraideth much,” to the counsel “after thou hast given, upbraid not” (Sir 41:23). Not so, St James implies, does God give, though we are more open to His reproaches than any who are the objects of our bounty can be to ours.

and it shall be given him] An obvious echo of our Lord’s promise in Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9.

Jam 1:5. Εἰ, if) The connection of the subjects mentioned in the first and following verses, and in the first and following verses of ch. 4, will be evident to him, who, while he suffers wrongfully, directs his attention to this passage. For the good and the bad affections are alternately and variously brought forward according as the train of thought suggests.—δὲ, but) There is an antithesis between the preceding clause and this: “wanting nothing,” and “if any man lack” (want).—σοφίας, wisdom) by means of which we understand whence and why temptation comes, and how it is to be borne, and how, for example, sickness (ch. Jam 5:14) is to be met. Patience is more in the power of a good man than wisdom; the former is to be exercised, the latter to be asked for. The highest wisdom, which governs patience in the trial of poverty and riches, is described in Jam 1:9-10.—αἰτείτω, let him ask) James strongly urges the prayer of faith. Comp. ch. Jam 5:13, and following verses.—πᾶσιν, to all) who ask aright.—ἁπλῶς, simply) To be taken with the sentence “who gives to all.” Divine simplicity is an admirable excellence. He gives simply, to the more and the less worthy, whether they are about to make a good or a bad use of His gift. To this simplicity that of the faithful answers, not that of the double-minded (διψύχων).—μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, who upbraideth not) He gives no repulse: when He gives good things, He neither upbraids us with our past folly and unworthiness, nor with future abuse of His goodness.

Verses 5-11. - Digression suggested by the thought of perfection. There can be no true perfection without wisdom, which is the gift of God, and must be sought from him. It is possible that the thought and connection of the passage is due to a reminiscence of Wisd. 9:6, "For though a man be never so perfect (τέλειος) among the children of men, yet if thy wisdom be not with him, he shall be nothing regarded." But whether this be so or not, the teaching is manifestly founded on our Lord's words with regard to prayer, Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you;" and Mark 11:23, "Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whoever shall say... and shall not doubt (διακριθῇ) in his heart," etc. Τοῦ διδόντος Θεοῦ. The order of the words shows that God's character is that of a Giver: "the giving God." His "nature and property" is to give as well as to forgive. Man often spoils his gifts,

(1) by the grudging way in which they are given, and

(2) by the reproaches which accompany them.

God, on the contrary, gives to all

(1) liberally, and

(2) without upbraiding Ἁπλῶς: only here in the New Testament, but cf. ἁπλότης in Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 13. Vulgate, affluenter; A.V. and R.V., "liberally." It is almost equivalent to "without any arriere pensee." Μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος: cf. Ecclus. 41:22, Μετὰ τὸ δοῦναι μὴ ὀνείδιζε James 1:5But

Omitted in A. V. In pursuing this perfection you will find yourselves lacking in wisdom. One may say, "I know not how to become perfect;" but, if any man, etc.


Note the repetition.

Of God that giveth (τοῦ διδόντος Θεοῦ)

The Greek puts it so that giving is emphasized as an attribute of God. Lit., "Ask of the giving God," or of "God the giver."

Liberally (ἁπλῶς)

Only here in New Testament. Literally the word means simply, and this accords with the following negative clause, upbraiding not. It is pure, simple giving of good, without admixture of evil or bitterness. Compare Romans 12:8, where a kindred noun is used: "He that giveth let him do it with simplicity (ἐν ἁπλότητι)." Compare, also, Proverbs 10:22. Men often complicate and mar their giving with reproach, or by an assumption of superiority.

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