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  • Shawn Thornton

Street Smart

Monday - December 28th

Devotionals from the Book of James

Scripture to Read Today: James 1:1-11

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,

who gives generously to all without finding fault,

and it will be given to you.

James 1:5

Historically, mapmakers (cartographers) spent a lot of time and energy, making elaborate and accurate maps. It makes sense that they would want to protect their investment. Mapmakers developed a way to trap those who might try to copy their work and claim it as their own. You might say they were "street smart" in how they trapped those who tried to copy and sell their maps.


Cartographers have included "trap streets," deliberate mistakes added to maps to catch unsuspecting copyright violators. Usually, the errors were minor. They might consist of a tiny (and completely false) bend in a river or road. In maps of major cities, the mapmaker might add a small dead-end street that did not exist.


These small but intentional flaws could then be used by the original mapmaker to prove in court someone had falsely claimed a copyrighted map as their own. Even Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze still reportedly utilize harmless "trap streets" to catch those who infringe on their mapping copyrights.


Talk about being "street smart." These "trap streets," as they were called, demonstrated practical wisdom on the part of mapmakers. We say that someone who can maneuver through life with a working knowledge of how people (even bad people) operate is "street smart." They are not naive. They understand how the world works and how to navigate the ins and outs of everyday life. The "trap streets" used by mapmakers demonstrated they were "street smart" in more ways than one.


In many ways, being street smart means someone has wisdom. They have practical working knowledge of life. The Bible takes this a step further and refers to wisdom as the combination of God's principles and a working, practical understanding of life. In the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs provides insights into practical living. Our current sermon series at Calvary Community Church unpacks the Book of James, the New Testament equivalent to Proverbs. While James is not written in the same proverbial form as the Book of Proverbs, it does address practical Christian living in the real world.


Let's face it. Life can be very complicated. Navigating relationships, careers, family dynamics, financial challenges, medical needs, and so much more requires everyday wisdom. James addresses how hard the trials of life can be at the outset of his letter to other Christians. He then suggests we need wisdom to handle life's challenges properly.


James instructs us in verse five of chapter one, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." What a promise! When we lack the understanding we need to deal with the real-life challenges we face, we have a resource. We can turn to God for the wisdom we need, and He will give it to us. He will do it without criticizing us. Our God does not consider us stupid or foolish for lacking wisdom. He is ready to give us insight into life. He gives us this generously without any strings attached.


If you are anything like me, you spend a lot of time trying to tackle life's challenges on your own - conjuring up your own wisdom. When I get to the end of my own attempts to be wise, I then, as a last resort, look to God for the wisdom I lack. Maybe that is just me. But, far too often, I fail to go to God first to understand life and how to tackle its challenges.


God tells us that we can turn to Him first for the knowledge and understanding we seek. When we go to Him as a last resort, we have already left a trail of mistakes, hurt feelings, and added complexity regarding our challenges.


Maybe you struggle to be street smart - you lack the wisdom to face life's complexities. In what area of life do you lack wisdom today? No matter what it is and how hard you have worked to tackle it on your own, stop and ask God for the insight and understanding you need. Pray for Him to give you clarity in understanding the problem, the people involved, and how you should act as you navigate the challenge. Keep asking Him daily. Open His Word and let Him speak to you. Go to God first - not later or last.


God stands ready to give us the wisdom we need to tackle life's challenges. We simply need to ask Him for it!

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