Apr 22, 2012

What Is Wisdom?

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”   ~James 3:17-18

“’Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.’”   ~Job 28:28

     What is wisdom? As I’ve gotten older, this question comes to my mind more and more often. Situations come up and problems arise where I’ve spent hours, sometimes days, wondering what would be the wisest thing to do. Even in day to day mundane tasks I’m thinking about what would be the wisest action to take. Now, that doesn’t mean I always do it—make the wisest choices, that is. Even in the midst of arguments I know what would be the wisest course, but I deliberately refuse to take it. But let me get back to the question.  Truly, what is wisdom?

     In Proverbs, it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Here in Job, it also says that the fear of the Lord is wisdom. Without this fear, no one can truly be wise, at least according to biblical standards. Oftentimes we use the word “wise” to mean someone who is smart or makes profitable decisions. We say that someone is a wise stock investor, or a wise philosopher. It is important to know that being foremost in a field does not necessarily make one wise. To be wise, someone must first and foremost fear the Lord. However, it is also important to know that making good decisions is a result of being wise. So in other words, good decisions do not make you wise, but if you are wise, you will make good decisions. In Proverbs, we have chapter after chapter giving different characteristics of a wise man. In the first three chapters, Solomon gives us some of these traits. These include: listening to counsel, taking rebukes graciously, avoiding the path of sinners, fleeing from the seductress, keeping the commandments of the Lord, being humble, and honoring the Lord with our possessions…to name a few. In James, we have another list. Notice two things. First, notice that James puts purity at the beginning (more on that next week). Second, notice how many times he refers to peacemaking: gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, without partiality (bias) and without hypocrisy (we are to be sincere). But wisdom is not just a bunch of traits. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Knowledge is knowing all these things, wisdom is applying them. So here are a couple biblical examples of wisdom adapted for our times:

     You really, REALLY want a new toy – computer, bike, camera, trebuchet, etc. Unfortunately, it will cost a third of your savings. Your parents and friends have cautioned you against spending so much for an unnecessary object. What would the wise man do? Heed advice. Be careful that the advice is biblical, though. You don’t want to be like Ahaz was with Jezebel over the issue of Nabel’s vineyard. In that situation, Ahaz heeded his wife’s ungodly advice and suffered for it. In addition, since a wise man honors the Lord through his possessions, spending that much money for a single object probably isn’t the best idea. 

     You are in a room full of friends and suddenly everyone leaves because of some interesting attraction in the back yard. You’ve seen it before, so you stay inside only to find out that one of your sisters in Christ has remained inside as well (she’s already seen it before, too). What to do? Well, in this case, it doesn’t hurt to see the same thing twice. In simple terms, go to where other people are. It doesn’t matter if you still talk to her, just don’t do it when it is only you two in the room.  Avoid temptation or even the appearance of evil. Follow Joseph’s lead and flee.

     Lastly, you are in a group of people your age. You are all having a marvelous time: laughing, singing, maybe even having a good old political debate. However, you notice that most of these people aren’t Christians and so some of the topics, both for the songs and talks, aren’t really the best. It could be something really bad or it could just be a bunch of guys talking about how to win a level on a video game. But here’s the question: is this the type of company you want to be spending your time with? In Proverbs we hear a lot on the way of the sinner, but we often don’t realize that even foolish talk that draws us away from following the Lord can have negative results. The solution? Either try and turn the conversation to more edifying things or simply take your leave.

     To wrap up this long letter, be wise. Act upon your knowledge; don’t let it grow moldy from disuse. Above all, though, fear the Lord!

Your brother in Christ,

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