But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
One of my absolute favorite aspects of Brazilian culture is the rodízio. For the uninitiated, a rodízio is a steakhouse where various cuts of meat are brought to your table on skewers. You decide if you want that particular piece of the cow (or pig, or chicken, or wild boar), at which point the waiter carves off a piece of it and then moves on to the next table. Behind him comes another waiter with yet another delectable cut of meat.
What I (and I presume, many others) enjoy about the rodízio are the options. If the carne de sol does not appeal to you, never fear, the picanha is on its way. Not a fan of picanha? Não tem problema. Check out this filé wrapped in bacon (I am not making any of this up).
Having choices is a big deal in our Western culture. From hamburgers to homeowner’s insurance, we want, no, we demand as many options as possible.
So leave it to James to be counter-cultural, once again. We’ve already seen how he challenges our obsession with comfort, telling us that trials are in fact a reason to rejoice. Now, he’s going to tell us that in at least one area, there can be such a thing as too many choices.
As always, it is essential to see this particular verse in the context of that which comes before. Remember, James has just told us that if we lack wisdom (and I can almost see James putting air quotes around that “if”), we can ask of God, and he will eagerly give it to us.
But this verse seems to offer us a caveat to that promise. If we ask, we better ask in faith, otherwise, no deal.
So what does this mean? How exactly am I to “ask in faith”? This is a particularly relevant question these days, what with the multitude of peddlers of the ill-named “prosperity gospel” constantly telling us that we can have whatever earthly goods we want if only we ask in faith.
It is helpful to remember that Scripture in general, and James in particular, equates faith with action. In James 1:22-23 he warns us against being “hearer’s only, and not doers” of the Word. Then in chapter 2, verses 14-26 he makes it abundantly clear that “faith without works is dead”.
So bringing it all back to our present passage, “faith” has to do with how we respond to the Wisdom once it is revealed to us. I believe we are justified in paraphrasing it this way: “If anybody lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who will give it to him. But when God shows him His wisdom through his Word, he needs to determine to obey it, otherwise it will do him no good whatsoever.”
And this brings us back to our introduction about choices. As a pastor, there have been many occasions where people have sought my counsel. I have opened up the Word of God to them, and shared God’s wisdom. Whereupon, they have politely thanked me, and then gone out and done the direct opposite. The bitter icing on the cake is when they return to me, shocked, shocked, I tell you! that things did not work out.
As Christians, we cannot treat God’s Wisdom like a juicy stake at a Brazilian rodízio, one of many options, to be weighed against all the other options. Once the Wisdom of God has been revealed in the Word of God, the child of God obeys. To do anything else is to invite disaster.
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