Monday, February 13, 2012

Wisdom is what's left after we've run out of personal opinions

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” - Saint Augustine

James (1:1-11)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.
But he should ask in faith, not doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

The brother in lowly circumstances
should take pride in high standing,
and the rich one in his lowliness,
for he will pass away "like the flower of the field."
For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass,
its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.
So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Often in our lives we can feel as though God is burdening us with too much. We may feel overwhelmed or hampered by the load he has put on our back; a load we don't feel we deserve. We may even feel as though God is punishing us for something and his love for us as dwindled. This is not true.

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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