What gave James the authority to act in this way? How could he in effect contradict Jesus? It seems probable that James found a reason in another passage of Q, which dealt with the theme of avoiding anxiety and trusting in Providence (Matthew 6:25–34 = Luke 12:22–31). It advocates having no concern about sustenance or clothing, and concludes with the words, “Seek the kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
The first part (“Seek the kingdom”) is clearly a condition that must be fulfilled before God grants the reward of nourishment and raiment. Even though the ostensible point of the Q saying is to give spiritual values primacy over material ones, the inescapable effect is to make spiritual perfection the prerequisite for the satisfaction of any material need no matter how basic.
While understandable, James’s solution to the problem of unanswered prayer is also surprising because he had the authentic solution within his grasp. Elsewhere in the letter he writes, “If a brother or sister is going naked and lacking daily food, and if one of you should say to them, ‘Go in peace! Be warmed and filled’ but does not give to them what is necessary for the body, what is the use? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:15–17). Clearly James expected a Christian to go to the aid of another believer in dire need, but he lacked the empathy to realize that the naked and hungry were certainly praying for clothing and food. The reason why their prayer went unanswered was not because they failed to meet certain conditions, but because other Christians were lazy and unloving. Human intermediaries are necessary if God is to answer prayers.