You Have Not Because You Ask Not Bible Verse Meaning

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What does the Bible verse, you have not because you ask not, mean? Where in the Bible does it say you have not because you ask not? And does that mean if we do ask we get whatever we want? 

I love how Bible statements (or variations of it) are used in our everyday language even thousands of years after they were written. It gives testimony of how God’s word penetrates even into secular society.

I had a friend who would always say… “Ask not, get not.” And these sayings were not by Christian friends talking about Christian things it was for all sorts of things.

Even being too shy to ask a girl out on a date the guys would say… “If you don’t ask you don’t get.”

The same goes for getting a job, asking for a discount when purchasing an item, or asking your boss for a pay rise, or anything you can think of…

If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get!

I remember plucking up the courage to ask my boss for a pay rise many years ago. I had never done it before. I was always a hard worker so surely they can see I was worth more money without asking —  right?

However, I had fallen on hard times and needed the money so I went in and ask for a pay rise. And I asked for a very hefty pay rise as well.

My boss spoke about it to his superiors and to my surprise I got exactly what I asked for. (Maybe I should have asked for more but I did ask for a lot)

How wonderful that when I asked for the pay rise I got it. However, a part of me feels robbed because I had been a loyal hard worker for many years and if I didn’t ask they would have left me on a smaller wage with no reward for my efforts.

How many years had I been missing out on a better wage because I didn’t ask? This really highlights the fact that if you don’t ask you don’t get.


Where In The Bible Does It Say You Have Not Because You Ask Not?

The scripture that specifically says, “You have not because you ask not.” can be found in James chapter 4 and verse 2.

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (James 4:2)

The NLT version translates the phrase as…  “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

We will investigate the entire chapter as we go on in this article however we need to remind ourselves that there were no chapters or verses in the original transcripts so in context this whole book should not have any divisions at all.

It is one letter written by James and this verse was written in the context of the entire letter.

Many have taken this verse and converted God into a Genie who will grant us our wishes if we just ask. God, I want a new Mercedes… God, I want a bigger jet plane than the other preacher… God, I want… I want… I want…  Stop treating God like your personal ATM machine!

In context, this statement sits between two verses that clearly demonstrate this is not the kind of stuff you should be asking for, and indeed it is this kind of worldly thinking and selfishness that James talks about in verse 3.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3)

So… they don’t get because they don’t ask, and even when they do ask they don’t get because they are asking for things out of lust.

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The Real Meaning Of You Have Not Because You Ask Not Actually?

The letter of James starts off by telling us what to ask for. So, when he addresses the very same subject matter, in the very same letter, to the very same people, then the context is crystal clear.

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. (James 1:5)

In the context of the book of James, you have not because you ask not is referring to wisdom and it is the lack of wisdom that is causing all of the strife and envy among them. And when they even ask for the wisdom they only ask for it in order to fulfill their own lusts.

Wisdom Is The Principal Thing!

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. (Prov 4:5-9)

Don’t get me wrong. The principle of “you have not because you ask not” can apply to other Godly things as it appears in a variety of ways in different scriptures as we will see below.

However, in this particular Bible verse in the book of James, it is chiefly talking about asking for wisdom.

All of the strife is because they have not asked God for wisdom. Let’s be blunt here. If a fool is given a flash car or a big house he is still a fool. He will squander it in no time.

We have all heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for life.”

This is how this verse applies, Asking for, and getting wisdom will set you up for life. Then, everything else will come to you because you walk in Godly wisdom.

Do you think the very God who inspired the scriptures will just hand everything to you on a silver platter when his word clearly says that is not what’s best for you?

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. (Proverbs 13:11)

Another one…

As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool. (Jer 17:11)

And this… Note how chasing riches is the opposite of what a faithful man does?

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. (Prov 28:20)

And finally…

He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. (Prov 28:22)

Honestly, it can be all summed up by saying, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.”

In 2 Chron 1:7, God said to Solomon… “Ask what I shall give thee.” And Solomon showed us the way when he said in 2 Chron 1:10…


“Give Me Now Wisdom And Knowledge, That I May Go Out And Come In Before This People: For Who Can Judge This Thy People, That Is So Great?”

And this is pretty much what James is affirming, ask for wisdom first and then everything you need will come to you.

And read God’s response to Solomon…

And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king:

Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.

So by sincerely from the heart asking for wisdom first for the sake of being a better servant in God’s kingdom results in everything being added to you anyway.

Can you imagine Solomon with all the riches but no wisdom? He could have had it that way if he had asked like the people James was instructing in his letter.

See also  You Are The Temple Of God (Lively Stones In The House Of God)

Once again… Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. I like to phrase it this way…


Don’t Chase The Blessings Let The Blessings Chase You!

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

Too many people chase the blessings and end up chasing them away.

We should be chasing the ways of the Lord and then the blessings will chase us.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 …And all these blessings shall come on thee, AND OVERTAKE THEE if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

Just get on with it!

Sure difficulties sometimes arise however if we continue to walk on, continue to obey, and trust the Lord these blessings will OVERTAKE us.

Jesus put it this way!

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things SHALL BE ADDED unto you. (Mat 6:33)

The Bible tells us to get on with it. Keep walking (in the Spirit). Continue moving forward and stop looking behind.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

I look at this way…

Say we are in a car driving down the King of Kings Highway and we are only interested in following that highway.

We do not look to the left or the right where there are other flashy or tempting places to turn off the road, we just stay a straight cause on that highway.

If we just keep doing that we will see the blessings car in the rear vision mirror come roaring up behind us and then overtake us – leaving a trail of blessings in our wake.

Stay the cause because… God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)

Israel’s entire Old Testament history is littered with them taking their eyes off the Creator and chasing after the created. Taking their eyes away from the Giver and seeking what can be given. Instead of worshipping the Blesser, they started worshipping the blessing!

So… I just want to reiterate this verse in James is referring to asking for wisdom. However, that doesn’t mean the principle of you don’t have because you don’t ask can not be applied in other matters. So let’s look at some examples…


Other Bible Verses That A Similar To… You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Phil 4:6)

So… Be anxious for NOTHING!

It doesn’t say to be anxious and worried a few things it says NOTHING!


How many things should we commit to God – or ask God about? It does say REQUESTS! Does it say a few things? Does it say just the important things? No… It says in EVERYTHING!


How Do You Let Your Requests Be Known To God?


  1. Prayer
  2. Supplication – Get this… It means Seeking or Asking 
  3. Thanksgiving

Read that again… And think about “If you don’t ask you don’t get!” and so… How do you ask?


We Don’t Have To Long-Winded Or Repetitious

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Mat 6:8)


Ask And It Shall Be Given You

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mat 7:7-11)


And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Mat 21:22)

And Whatsoever We Ask, We Receive Of Him

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1 John 3:22-23)

Asking Is A Demonstration Of Faith

In summary, the scripture in James 4:2 that says “you have not because you ask not” is primarily based around two things. Ask for wisdom because that is the principal thing and ask with a pure heart.

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However, it is vitally important we do indeed ask and let all of our requests be known unto God. Just a casual glance at the scriptures reveals the importance of prayer.

By asking you are showing your faith in God. You know that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.


What Does James Chapter 4 Say About Asking

  1. Asking is a form of humility –  God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)
  2. Asking is submission – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
  3. Asking is how you draw close to God – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. (James 4:8)

And again… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)


Jesus Asked The Blind Man What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

This is amazing. As God asked Solomon what he wanted and we are in awe at his response and indeed asking for wisdom should be a high priority in our life, don’t be afraid to ask the Lord for anything in his will.

The whole story starts back in verse 46 when this poor blind beggar is told Jesus is passing by and he yells out Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Think about this… He ASKS!

And it says many around him told him to be quiet!

but he cried the more a great dealThou Son of David, have mercy on me.

This is when Jesus stands still…

And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. (Mark 10:46-52)

What would have happened if he never cried out? If he never asked? If he listened to everyone else telling him to be quiet?

He would still be blind. He would have not because he asked not.

There were other blind beggars there that day. For every one of them, it could be said… You have not because you ask not.

Which leads me to another point…


Be Happy For Those Who Ask And Receive!

In James 4:1 he was addressing the fighting and in the previous chapter he was addressing the problems with envy, and then he said you have not because you have not.

I have lost count how many times people start to murmur, gossip, and try to pull down others when that have received good things.

Someone else in the office gets a promotion and everyone else is so negative about it. Someone else is happy all the time and everyone else gets mad about, and so.

We should rejoice when others get blessed not to be envious, fighting, and arguing. Perhaps we have not because we ask not?

You may also be interested in What Does Be Still and Know That I Am God Mean


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God bless!

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Allan Wilson is the creator of the Scriptural Thinking Affirmations Package. Featuring over 200 minutes of mp3 audio Bible affirmations complete with background music. The package comes with the original affirmations PDF ebook and many bonus affirmation Bible studies as well. The affirmations are designed to help you call to remembrance all of the wonderful benefits of being in Christ and the marvelous privilege of being a child of God.

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