Every so often I like to drop in and chat with you Mormons about your understanding of my epistle. There’s always been a great deal of interest in this passage:
James 1:2-8 2 Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. 6 But he should ask in faith, nothing wavering, for the one who wavers is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.
You’re supposed to be interested in becoming perfect in the sense of being complete or whole. Good idea, no? This means that you view Life’s Little Issues as the opportunity for joy. As a believer who’s doing everything else right, the thing you really need and that you might be short on is the wisdom to do this. And in the Wisdom Tradition, God is the source of wisdom. Lucky for you that God is identified precisely as the One who Gives, isn’t it?
Now here’s a key point. You know that business about “nothing wavering?” It means that because God is the One who Gives, you can ask with perfect confidence that he will respond. It doesn’t mean that you have all the answers because, remember, you’re short on wisdom. Smarts, you know, the ability to deal properly with the things that challenge and try us, to see them as a source of “joy.”
Now the thing is, I’ve also defined the nature of this wisdom for you. Yup. But because I put it a few chapters away, and because your GD is only forty minutes long, and because you do so need to get to the bottom of how many polygamous marriages can be solemnized on the head of pin in that forty minutes, you almost never find it. Anyway, here you go:
James 3:13-18 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in wisdom’s meekness.
Wisdom’s meekness? That’s the approach to life that admits you don’t have all the answers and that God does. Trust in God and all that.
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.
We Sages sometimes can’t quite make up our mind about things but on one point we tend to be quite clear. Folks who work in a wisdom tradition that comes from below find themselves engaged in lots of strife. And there’s a clear contrast with the other kind of wisdom:
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. 18 And the fruit that is righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
So now…if you would like to recognize folks who have actually managed to get close to the “nothing wavering” standard and so receive the wisdom from above, you’ll see a way of life characterized by peace and peacemaking. It is this wisdom that enables them to create and achieve relationships that are peaceful precisely in those situations that invite conflict.
Nothing Wavering. Indeed.