In Search of Wisdom — A Tale of Two Restaurants

It's not the wisest thing I spend money on, but I've always enjoyed eating out. Options were scarce in rural Mississippi. Western Sizzlin' was a fantastic treat (not there), and the fried pickles at The Desert Inn (still there) were truly to die for.

Then again, so was the double cheese at Wendy's.

It was the love of great food and a stellar dining experience that led me to wait tables while earning my masters.

I cut my table waiting teeth at a moderately priced seafood restaurant in Birmingham, AL named Landry's (I think it's still there). I had a fantastic general manager and 2 excellent floor managers. They were relational, natural leaders of an eclectic wait staff made up of ambitious graduate students and thirty-somethings stuck (willingly) in adultolescence.

I learned many things that year, but perhaps the most important thing I learned is the importance of service and presentation. That is, how the food was delivered by me and my supporting team mattered just as much as what food I delivered. Therefore, when my shirt was freshly pressed, shoes shined, tables clean, drinks full, and when the kitchen operated with a 16-minute cook time (that's 16 minutes from order to table ... for everyone in the restaurant),  my tips (on average) were higher. In fact, those factors often trumped the fact that some cooks sent out mediocre food. This speed and service were crucial to my income because I was only allowed to serve 3 tables at one time. The faster I turned tables, the more tables I served and the more money I made. Did I mention was in grad school? Truly, how the food was delivered mattered.

Two years later, I waited tables at a different kind of restaurant. The Connie Kanakis Café was a family owned Greek grill with a more formal environment. In fact, I wore a tuxedo (sans jacket). The menu corresponded with this ambiance, as did the pace of dinner. Yes, how I presented dinner mattered, but because the pace of dinner was slower and the menu more expensive, I'd have three tables all night, as opposed to three at once at Landry's. Yet this did not matter to me financially, as people came for the food. Connie Kanakis' chef executed recipes perfectly, and people regularly came to enjoy it despite the steep cost. I made the same money (if not more) working half as hard, primarily because of the quality of the food delivered. What came out of that kitchen mattered more to the clients than how it was presented.

The dilemma about which is more important—how or what—is present in James 1:5-8.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting.[b] For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

First, James is concerned with the "what," that being wisdom. What we ask God for is important! He has what we need, and because of His character (generous and intentional), He gives what we need to honor Him when we ask for it.

But that we ask for it is not enough. How we ask for it also matters. We need to ask for the wisdom of God that we need in such a way that demonstrates we actually believe Him to have the character He says He has. In fact, if we don't ask for the right thing in the right manner, we "should not expect to receive anything from the Lord," for to ask in the wrong way is to show ourselves unstable and double-minded.

Christian, let us ask for the right things, and ask for them in the right manner. Asking for the right things is important ... just as important as how we ask.