Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


A Brother’s Wisdom 5

posted by Scot McKnight

JesusJames*.jpgJames starts off James 1:5 with a line that has brought comfort to many:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Many take comfort in being able to turn to God for wisdom, and they should. Why and what kind of wisdom does James have in mind?

If we read James in light of James, which is where any good reading of this letter needs to begin, we will want to ask what kind of wisdom the messianists — those who believed Jesus was Messiah but who were scattered into the diaspora  — were in need of.



James makes that abundantly clear in this letter: they were mostly the oppressed poor (cf. 1:9-11; 2:1-13; 5:1-6) who were tempted to find justice (1:20; 4:1-2; 5:1-6) and perhaps even by using violence (1:20; 4:1-2). Even if one has doubts about violence, justice for the poor is not just something the privileged talk about and work for — the poor cry out to God for justice.

The wisdom that was sought from God was that kind of wisdom: wisdom the poor needed as they faced oppression. I suggest we begin right here.

The reason for expanding this kind of wisdom, though, has warrant in this text and it can be found in the “why?” question. They could count on God’s wisdom because God “gives generously to all without finding fault.”  The issue here is whether God’s wisdom is “generous” or “simple” (not the same as simplistic). Most resolve this question by appealing to 1:6-8 where it seems clear that James compares the double-mindedness of humans with the singlemindedness of God. And then one can also dance right over to 1:13-15 to see that James has in mind a God who does not tempt and who does not waver in his desire to grant wisdom to those who come to him in faith.



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RJS

posted February 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm


Well, It is clear that you read James in a fashion different from any eye that I’ve taken to the text.
I don’t see the emphasis on oppression and that you seem to see, i.e. how to respond in the face of oppression.
I do see how to respond in a just fashion in a variety of circumstances.
Is this a typical reading?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm


RJS,
The question is to ask what this stuff meant in the context of the evidence we have … and it is found in James’ letter. So, “trials” and “wisdom” will have that contextual shape.



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RJS

posted February 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm


So I’ve always read 5:1-6 as addressed (with rather strong language) to part of the intended audience. Do you see this as a statement against oppressors of the readers – and an assurance of ultimate justice?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 23, 2009 at 5:49 pm


RJS,
Yes, I see 5:1-6 addressed to the oppressors.



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RJS

posted February 23, 2009 at 6:02 pm


Well, the obvious question would be “Why?” but perhaps we’ll get there in due course.
I’m losing the big picture though. Or more accurately I don’t understand how you get to your big picture.



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