Wisdom from Above
At first reading or hearing, the opening lines of the Letter to James can seem quite disjointed. Beginning with an exhortation regarding perseverance in faith, the text then gives instruction about praying for wisdom. The necessary connection emerges, however, when we recall that this “wisdom” is no ordinary wisdom, but wisdom “from above.”
As in the rest of the Scriptures, such wisdom relates to faith—it helps the believer “see” clearly the meaning of the events in his or her life, precisely because it sheds light on these events from the perspective of faith. We think of Paul’s writing in his first letter to the Corinthians in which he refers to “God’s wisdom, mysterious and hidden,” the wisdom of the Cross. What the ordinary eye sees as the death of one more unfortunate victim of Roman cruelty, the eyes of faith see as the plan of God for the salvation of the world.
Only the gift of that kind of wisdom allows the believer to persevere in the midst of trials which test faith.
Where have we recently experienced a trial or testing of faith? Perhaps someone has experienced rejection from a friend, associate or family member because of a moral stance taken. Perhaps someone else struggles to find the nearness of God that seemed so reassuring just a short time ago. Our great temptation is to “figure out” these and similar situations. By contrast, James urges us: Pray for the gift of wisdom, for the light that comes from God, to see more clearly God’s presence and find the grace of perseverance in trial.
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