In the NIV (1984), James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." What does the phrase "without finding fault" refer to?

Is it listing a necessary condition for which to receive wisdom from God (being without fault)? Or rather, does it mean that God does not look down on us for admitting our lack?

Some of the other translations seem to indicate that the latter is the correct interpretation. Is this verse less ambiguous in Greek?

  • 1
    @AndrewKelley-I like the KJV better(upbraideth not)-it gives the connotation of a 'correction session' vs a 'fault finding session' in which a string of accusations are made.
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 7:54
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    The scriptures also in may places say, "without blame", which denotes a similar concept. This doesn't mean that they person is perfect, but that no one can hold anything substantial against them for doing something wrong at least againt another. I might have done something that only I know and I have to square this with God, but in regards to others they cannot bring a charge against me since it did not involve or affect them.
    – Dwight
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


The Greek phrase is μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, which is the negative particle μὴ followed by the present tense, active voice, participle ὀνειδίζοντος declined in the singular number, genitive case. ὀνειδίζοντος is conjugated from the verb ὀνειδίζω. This verb occurs 10 times in the Textus Receptus (Estienne, 1551). BDAG defines the verb ὀνειδίζω as,

① to find fault in a way that demeans the other, reproach, revile, mock, heap insults upon

② to find justifiable fault with someone, reproach, reprimand,

In addition, BDAG notes,

A special kind of reproach is the suggestion of reluctance that too often accompanies the giving of a gift (Sextus 339 ὁ διδοὺς μετʼ ὀνείδους ὑβρίζει; difft. Plut., Mor. 64a; s. also Sir 20:15; 41:25.—ὀν. can also mean charge or reproach someone with someth., a kind of verbal extortion, with the purpose of obtaining someth. from a pers., e.g., Maximus Tyr. 5, 7h τῷ θεῷ the building of a temple); God does not do this Js 1:5.

The Greek text states,

εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας αἰτείτω παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ

James writes that God gives to all men [ἁπλῶς]. The adverb ἁπλῶς means "simply." It is related to the adjective ἁπλοῦς, meaning "single, simple." In this context, ἁπλῶς suggests that God gives simply, without strings attached.

Henry Alford notes,

but we must interpret by what follows, and understand it of simply giving, and adding nothing afterwards which may take off from the graciousness of the gift)...

Imagine if you ask someone for some kind of assistance, whether labor or financial. The person obliges, but on condition. God does not give wisdom in this manner. Rather, He gives wisdom simply, without condition, to all who ask.

As for μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, imagine you ask someone for something, and they respond, "Again? I just gave you some." The individual is not only reluctant to give you what you requested, but you are also shamed/ insulted in the process. You can also imagine the mannerisms and tone of voice that would accompany such a response.

For other verses related to the general context, see:


Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (710). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.



God gives wisdom bountifully to all who ask Him.

But it is the man who must be the one who receives the wisdom "without fault"….without reproaching (upbraid…. oneidezō= to defame, to rail at) what he hears. The man who asks must be the one not upbraiding the wisdom given to him.

God does not find fault with those who will receive His wisdom in faith…belief. The righteous shall be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless.

But those who will hear His wisdom and contend with it shall not receive it.

James 1:5-8 KJV (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Men who ask God for wisdom must receive His knowledge with faith when they will hear it or they cannot enter in to understand it. Those who resist in their unrighteousness are "outside" that knowledge and cannot enter in to receive it.

To “waver” = diakrino = to separate, to separate one's self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend.

Such men who oppose His wisdom in their “wavering” doubt shall not receive any thing of the Lord.

They resist the Spirit of Truth when they hear it in their unbelief….thus “driven with the wind”…driven away with the Spirit (the wind) in their resistance towards what they hear the Spirit saying. The hearing of the Spirit of Truth causes them to resist it in their unbelief and they are agitated as the waves of the sea foaming up their shame in their words. Such men who behave that way are "tossed" away (Matthew 13:48).

(6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

The wicked are like the troubled sea when they will resist what they hear. Though they name the name of Christ, they will not depart from iniquity as they speak evil words. They cannot rest as they speak turbulent words of resistance against what they will hear the Spirit of Truth saying….casting up their “mire and dirt”. There is no peace to the wicked as a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.

Isaiah 57:19-20 KJV (20) But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. (21) There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

In contrast to the wicked, the righteous shall be like a tree planted by the “rivers of water”….the hearing of the living waters…hearing the Spirit of Truth…as they will drink in what the Spirit says. Psalms 1:3.

They will drink in what they hear the Spirit saying (being filled with the Spirit) rather than be found "drunken" on the wine of wrath.

The righteous will not be found in the company of those who will do evil towards what they hear but will always remember to do His will...to have brotherly love towards those "strangers" who will come to speak His living words of life and spirit to their hearing ears.

Psalms 1:1-6 KJV (1) Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

The righteous will bring forth his fruit in season….fruits of righteousness towards the hearing of the living waters of the Spirit (the “rivers of water”).

His leaf shall not wither as his tongue shall not speak contentious words towards the hearing of the living words but rather will rejoice. The righteous will not despise what they hear but instead will be planted in faith at their hearing of the living waters of the Lord and rejoice in it.

(3) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

But those who will do wrong towards the hearing of the Spirit are not so. They are like the chaff which the wind (the Spirit) drives away as they resist that “wind” and shall not enter in to understand. The ungodly will not have peace and will not rejoice in what they hear. They are rejected.... "driven away".

(4) The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. (5) Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. (6) For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

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