“I Don’t Know”

 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.       Proverbs 2:6

“I don’t know.” The older I grow, the more often I say those three words. In the past week, I’ve said them to a friend who’s navigating her way through a marital crisis, to my husband about a parenting decision, and to a co-worker about an unresolved conflict at our workplace.

When I was in my twenties, I resisted those words. I didn’t like to admit my ignorance. I wanted to figure things out on my own and prove that I was a capable, independent adult. But over the years, I’ve learned that saying “I don’t know” frees me rather than binds me–it sends me running to my heavenly Father rather than trying to stumble ahead on my own.

James, the brother of Jesus, understood the value of “I don’t know.” As the head of the first Christian church in Jerusalem, James faced many perplexing situations—how to create harmony between Jewish and Gentile believers, how to embrace converts like Paul, and how to deal with a vicious adversary like King Herod.

In his epistle he advised, “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God” (James 1:5). The Greek word translated “wisdom” is sophia. It can refer to a broad intelligence or knowledge about many subjects. But according to Thayer’s Lexicon, James used this word in a much more narrow sense: the knowledge and practice of the requirements for godly and upright living.

James himself explains what kind of wisdom Christians should pursue later in his epistle: “but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (3:17). When I read that list, I realize that I can’t acquire or practice that kind of wisdom on my own. “The only wise God” must impart it to me (1 Tim. 1:17, KJV).

Are you wrestling with one or more worrisome problems this week? Go to God in prayer. Say, “I don’t know.” Then ask Him to impart His wisdom to you. James assures us that God “gives [wisdom] generously without finding fault” (James 1:5). Admitting our lack of wisdom is the first step toward acquiring it.


How do we know the difference between God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom? Read James 3:13-17.

What does Solomon say about acquiring wisdom in Proverbs 2:1-5? In what practical way can you “turn your ear to wisdom” this week?

To learn more about the situations James faced as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, read Acts 12:5-18, 15:13-29, and 21:17-26.

 Denise K. Loock

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