“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.” James 1:5-6a
Google the word “wisdom” and you will get more than 50 million hits. A quick check on a Bible website shows almost 400 times the Scriptures speak of wisdom or being wise. A Christian book distribution website lists over 2,000 current resources that promote wisdom. There is a lot being said about wisdom – so why are we still doing so many foolish things? I offer two thoughts I believe hold some answers, and they both follow Jesus’ teaching found in Matthew 7:24-27.
This is the parable of the wise and foolish builders. We all know that a sturdy house needs a strong and sure foundation. You can use the best materials to construct the house, but without the foundation, the building is susceptible to the shifting ground beneath it. My son, who works in electrical construction, tells me that there are two components to a building’s foundation: concrete reinforced with rebar.
Jesus said “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Likewise, He says, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matt. 7:26). Jesus is saying that there are two components to the wise life: His words – the whole of the Bible – combined with obedience. Together they become the sure foundation for the life of a Christian.
I love the Word of God. It is my light and my life, my passion and my calling. I study it all day long as a seminary student, and I teach the Bible in multiple weekly Bible study classes. I am convinced to the marrow of my bones that the Bible is true, right and perfect, and is the complete revelation of the God of creation to man. But I used to think if just studied the Bible enough, poured over it every day and memorized verses, I would be wise. But for so long, I failed to put those words into practice in my life. I wondered, how can I know so much Scripture and do the foolish things I do? The Bible gives much wisdom about finances, yet I was always broke and drowning in debt. God has volumes to say about relationships, but I did not have good relationships with my family, friends or co-workers. The Scriptures are replete with constructive advice for avoiding sin, still I stayed in the sludge pit constantly. Why? Because, while I knew a lot of Bible verses, I wasn’t applying my life to what I knew. I wasn’t following those Biblical principles for financial management or healthy relationships. I didn’t look for the way out of temptation, but followed it straight into sin. The words of Jesus – the Bible – is the rebar, and obedience is the cement in the wise Christian life.
Here again we look to James who says “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and . . . goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23, 24, emphasis mine). You see, the Bible is the living, breathing, spoken Word of God, inspired by His own Spirit. God does not speak merely to be heard, He speaks to be obeyed. The first, and most important ingredient in the wise life is to hear the Word of the Lord – without it we have nothing to center our lives on; the second ingredient is obedience to the Word, otherwise we are just foolish people with our heads full of words that have no practical application to our lives. Look at the other part of James’ teaching: “The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25, emphasis mine).
That is the truth behind our key verse today. If we ask God for wisdom, He will give us wisdom – generally through His Word. But if we receive His wisdom and don’t put it into practice – because of doubt or our own desires, we will be “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6b). We will do foolish things, and our lives will fall with a great crash. The Bible is very practical to our daily lives. There is nothing we will encounter in life that the Bible does not address, either directly or implicitly. There are “do’s and do not’s” and there are teachings that guide us in the best way to live. But they will just be words on a page to us unless we walk in obedience and submission to the God who created us and who loves us.
Is there a particular area of defeat in your life? Look up Scriptures that address that area and ask God to help you put those words into practice. Read and study the Word of God every day and consider how to bring your life in line with what He says. You may need to make some changes and choices, but the blessings that come from walking in God’s truth are enormous. Build a wise life on the Word of God and obedience to Him. Then when “the rain comes down, and the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against your house, it will not fall, because it has its foundation on the rock” (Matt. 7:25b, adaptions mine).
Holy Father, please give me wisdom from Your Word, and help me to put it into practice every day. Storm clouds are building over the sea Lord; I need Your strong and sure foundation. Amen.