The Bible tells us that we should seek wisdom, try to find it, pay what we have to get it. It is worthwhile. But why is that? What is wisdom? How do we find it? What does it mean for us today?
Let's take a short look at this topic - of wisdom, a word which we find 216 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. Here we'll be talking about Biblical Godly wisdom specifically. This does not claim to be a complete study on this massive topic, and you will find that many times verses overlap into different sections. But we pray it helps you and is clear and concise.
Proverbs 2.6 - 'For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.'
What is wisdom?
The dictionary defines wisdom as: "accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : KNOWLEDGE b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : INSIGHT c : good sense : JUDGEMENT d : generally accepted belief <challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians -- Robert Darnton>
2 : a wise attitude or course of action
3 : the teachings of the ancient wise men."
So wisdom has many parts and is linked closely with knowledge, judgement, insight (and understanding / discernment).
An overview of wisdom
Great stuff from Proverbs 2. Read it aloud - CLICK HERE FOR NIV VERSION (others are available - from biblegateway.com)
Firstly, a warning
Our search for wisdom can be a bad thing. This may be because it goes beyond a barrier God has put there for our protection (such as not dabbling with the occult as it is so evil) - or because of wrong motives (to be above others) etc. Right from the start of the Bible we find that Eve (especially) and Adam, had a desire for wisdom from the tree that went beyond what God had ordained (said should happen) / beyond God's limits. Don't be too intrigued by what God has told you isn't good for you. That isn't wisdom, it's the path to destruction.
1 Genesis 3:6 - When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
We need God's wisdom first and not man's wisdom - Job 15:8 - 'Do you listen in on God's council? Do you limit wisdom to yourself?' Many teenagers are convinced they have all the answers, that they are right, that their perspective is the only one. But we learn that people of all ages need to listen and learn from each other, but foremost and most of all, from God. (Proverbs 1.8 - 'Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.')
James 3.14-16 shows us that there is an ungodly 'wisdom' - showing how envy, bitterness, selfishness, boastfulness and denial of God's truth are found in this place - and it causes disorder and every evil practice. Ever wondered why there is so much evil in the world? Look no further than these verses for both the problem - and the only real solution.. Jesus.
'But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.'
Why should we seek / do we need wisdom - in practical terms?
For this we'll look through a lot of examples in the Bible:
Firstly, because we see examples of wisdom in the Bible and therefore see how necessary it was. We see that it was given by God and is from God: Exodus 28.3 says - Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. So we immediately learn that God gives real wisdom. In Job 33.33, we hear God speaking to Job, 'But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.'
God wills us to get wisdom: Proverbs 4:7 - 'Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, [ Or Whatever else you get ] get understanding.'
Secondly, in leadership or positions of authority especially, you will need wisdom as there will be situations that will need the supernatural wisdom of God to overcome. We find that Joshua was given wisdom in Deuteronomy 34.9, that Solomon asked for wisdom from God. 1 Kings 5:12 says, 'The LORD gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him.'
Thirdly, there is a creative spirit that comes through wisdom. We have already seen this above in point one, where God gave wisdom to the skilled men to make garments for the priests. We also read this in Psalm 104:24: 'How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.' Then we read in Proverbs 3:19 - 'By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place.' Jeremiah 10:12 lets us know, 'But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.'
So God's creative / design / pioneering process was filled with his wisdom. God knew what he was doing when he created the earth and all that is in it. If we want to be successful or pioneer new things and works, we need God's wisdom to give us this kind of understanding and help.
Fourthly, wisdom leads us in God's straight paths and away from dangers, temptations and evil. Proverbs 4:11 - 'I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.' This includes avoiding sexual temptation: Proverbs 5:1 - 'My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.'
God's Wisdom is the greatest and most powerful
Paul, especially, leaves us in no doubt. Many things are written and said in this world, by all kinds of experts. But as the case of a baby expert (called Roy Meadows) proved, not every expert is always right. The expertise and wisdom of this world is ever changing and not always right - or incomplete. Only God's wisdom stands forever, as permanent truth:
1 Corinthians 1:19 - For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." [Isaiah 29:14]
1 Corinthians 1:20 - Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1 Corinthians 1:21 - For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:25 - For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
1 Corinthians 3:19 - For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness" [Job 5:13]
How do we find wisdom?
Firstly, Proverbs 2.1-4 lets us know how we find wisdom through finding the fear of the Lord:
- Verse1: Accepting (receiving) God's Word and meditating on it - 'accept my words and store up my commands within you.'
- Verse 2: Turning your ear to wisdom (desiring to see and find wisdom) and applying your heart to understanding. This is an active process of really committing your heart to receiving God's wisdom, working hard, studying, thinking.
- Verse 3: Crying out for God to give you insight and understanding.
- Verse 4: Look for it as if you were trying to find treasure. This suggests a desire that is passionate and comes out of the knowledge of how valuable wisdom is. (Proverbs 8:11 - 'for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.')
This, then, leads to (verse 5) and understanding of the fear of the Lord and knowledge of God.
Secondly therefore, wisdom comes through the fear of the Lord (putting God in his rightful place in our lives and living accordingly). Psalm 111.10 - 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.' And again in Proverbs 9.10 - 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.'
Thirdly, there is a spiritual gift of wisdom. We find this with Solomon. And we also see this in Daniel - Daniel 2.23 - 'I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.' - Daniel 5.14 - 'I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.'
But of course, we find this in its completeness in Jesus. Isaiah 11.2 says, 'The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.' Then in Matthew 13:54 we read about Jesus and his homecoming to Nazareth, 'Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked.'
Fourthly, we find that wisdom is a growing process. This was even the case with Jesus. Luke 2.52 - 'And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.' Notice how we can grow in favour with God and man. But in that order.
Fifthly, God can give us specific words and times of real wisdom: Luke 21.15 - 'For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.'
Sixthly, we can ask God for this wisdom, and pray this wisdom for other people - Ephesians 1.17: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit [ Or a spirit] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. From Colossians 1:9 - 'For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.'
James 1.5-7: '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. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.' So we learn that we can ask God, but there is a condition attached - when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt.
We also find (among other things!) that wisdom: protects us from getting into trouble, causes others to praise us, keeps us on track, keeps us prosperous, allows us to show patience, restraint, keeps us safe, allows us to receive correction, and helps us find God.
How do we know we have God's wisdom?
There are many tests to this - does it line up with much of what has been said already? Is it Biblical? Do other wise Christians think the advice is wise? Has God spoken to you directly? Do you have a feeling inside of you that you can't shake off? All these are good. but let's look at James 3.17:
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
So here are the steps to discerning Godly wisdom:
- Is it pure?
- Is it peace-loving?
- Is it considerate?
- Is it submissive?
- Is it full of mercy and good fruit? (good deeds, God things)
- Is is impartial and sincere?
What does wisdom mean spiritually for us today?
Firstly, wisdom keeps us on track and helps us make the most of every day - Psalm 90:12 - 'Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.' Or from The Amplified Bible - 'So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom.' From this we get life in perspective, make the most of every day and every thing we do. Wisdom, in a sense, gives life.
Secondly, Proverbs 4:6 - 'Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.' Our protection, both in this world and in the spiritual realm, can depend on us getting and then not walking away from wisdom. Many people have done some very un-wise things in their Christian lives that have led to many problems. Don't let wisdom leave you, always ask God for wisdom in every situation. That way, God will be able to more effectively watch over and look out for you.
Thirdly, wisdom helps us in teaching and preaching, enabling Christ's body, the church, to become ever more Christ-like. It is part of our life of worship and necessary for teaching and correcting within the body. It is also a plea, for those who teach to get wisdom as they seriously need it. Colossians 1:28 - 'We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.' Colossians 3:16 - 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.'
Fourthly, wisdom should create a spirit of humility in us that means God can work through us to show his love in our lives, through our witness in the world in word and action - James 3.13 - 'Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.'