Being able to receive wisdom from God – the creator of the universe – would be a treasure! But what is it and how would one receive wisdom from God? The apostle James focuses some on this topic in his epistle. It’s a fitting place given that his short letter is sometimes referred to as the “Proverbs of the New Testament.”

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

While James says clearly all one need do to receive wisdom from God is ask Him, confusion still abounds regarding what this wisdom actually is – maybe some kind of “special revelation?” Imagined or extra-biblical ideas about the Holy Spirit lead some into an almost miraculous notion of wisdom and how one might receive wisdom from God. What else can we learn from James about how to receive wisdom from God and what about the rest of Scripture?

How Scripture answers "How does one receive wisdom from God (James 1:5)?"

James says we receive wisdom from God by asking Him for it in faith1. It’s a wisdom specifically for a Christian to continue in their faith each day1. Later, James goes on to tell us about another kind of wisdom2,3,4. This wisdom has to do with teachers of God’s word and it is displayed through their “good conduct”2. Here James also draws a distinction between the wisdom of man and wisdom that “comes down from heaven”3, or from God. A teacher with the former is “false to the truth”3 – aka, a false teacher/prophet.

Conversely, the teacher with wisdom from above teaches first and foremost that which is pure (only God’s word), doing so with sincerity and reason among other things4. The resulting “harvest of righteousness” is the true peace that Jesus promised4. Other Bible teaching on wisdom beautifully corroborates James’ teaching5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13.

Paul draws the “practical living” wisdom1 together with the “gospel teaching” wisdom2,3,4 in his introduction to the Corinthians6. It’s there that he directly connects the “wisdom from above”4 with the purity of God’s word to the exclusion of “earthly” wisdom3. Proverbs writers testify of the broad truths that God is the dispenser of true wisdom5, the acquisition of which requires at the bare minimum someone that’s not foolish10,11 and acknowledges God’s authority5,9,11,12 (so that they would even consider asking God1).

CASE STUDY: King Solomon famously asked God for the “practical”1 wisdom and knowledge to govern which God granted7. However, we also see Solomon lamenting his God-given wisdom and knowledge later in his life8. We might say it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…maybe because Solomon didn’t always remain “upright” in his life5, but in the end, he recognized the only wisdom that mattered8 – the wisdom of God’s words alone4,6.

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