Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed? You had a situation or a problem before you and you weren’t sure what to do next. You’ve got to make some decision that has immediate consequences, for better or worse, and you’re not quite sure which is best. Life is full of these sorts of moments. How much money would you pay if you could simply be told with a flashing neon light, “PICK THIS, NOT THAT!” Think of all mistakes you could avoid! Sadly, life does not work that way.
There are innumerable decisions and judgments which we have to account for every single day. How do we know which is right? When we enter such conversations what we are really trying to pursue is wisdom.
What is wisdom? If we want to pursue a strict dictionary definition wisdom would be described along the lines of “knowledge,” or “experience,” or “sound judgment.” A more ancient definition rooted from the Greeks understands wisdom or sophia (Greek) as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly.” (BDAG) Wisdom entails the simultaneous recognition of that which is appropriate, and inappropriate, that which is beneficial, or destructive. Wisdom is knowledge, but it is more than that. Wisdom is the skill of living well.
Does the Bible have something to say about that? In one sense, the entirety of the Bible is a book of wisdom. But the wisdom’s pursuit is not something that is merely meant for the mind, but drips like sweet honey into the heart. Wisdom is meant to transform the whole person to learn to see themselves rightly, the world rightly, but most importantly God. The book of Proverbs teaches humanity what wisdom entails.
Proverbs is a collection of wise instructions for living a godly life written mostly by King Solomon. The Proverbs of Solomon most famously note, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 ESV) Our modern English Bibles typically rely mostly upon the Hebrew text. However, the early church also utilized the Greek version of the Old Testament, which we call the Septuagint (abbreviated by the letters “LXX”). The Septuagint or LXX can be a tool to help us understand how the ancients viewed the Old Testament. What does the LXX say in Proverbs 1:7? We read, “The beginning of wisdom is fear of God, and good insight belongs to all those who practice it, and piety toward God is the beginning of insight; but the ungodly despise wisdom and instruction.” (LES2)
What were the interpreters trying to teach us? The Hebrew and Greek text were drawing us in to see that a life of wisdom always involves our head, our hands, and our heart. When God made you, He made all of you. When sin corrupted you, sin corrupted all of you. Wisdom then, especially as it is most clearly presented throughout the book of Proverbs is meant to guide us as sons and daughters of God in Christ to pursue Him. The Lord Jesus did not merely die to pardon our sins, but to renew us in His own image. That means, part of the Christian life is thinking more like Jesus, who is Wisdom personified. God has called His people from darkness to life, and this life shines over every aspect of our living. God’s wisdom impacts how we speak, how we do business, how we desire our spouse, how we rear our children, how we view sin, etc. As the chief book on wisdom, Proverbs is our daily instruction guide of a life lived in love to our Lord both in warnings and in encouragement.
Today, you may not have to decide on weighty political matters that affect your entire community; maybe you do. But what I can guarantee is that there are areas in your life that perplex you and require careful thought. You are going to have to make hard decisions. You are going to have to decide what you love, and what is worth loving. You are going to have to decide whether you should pursue one path, or abandon it altogether. The Proverbs are God’s gift to us that we might begin to think in a manner that most honors Him. In short, Proverbs is God’s means of expunging our minds from the scat-laden tendencies that masquerades itself as wisdom, intelligence, and goodness today.
How do we grow in wisdom? First, you ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith,” (James 1:5-6 ESV). Secondly, you read the book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters. Therefore, if you committed yourself to read a chapter a day, you could finish the book in about a month. Thirdly, you live the message you are reading. Our world separates the arena of the mind from daily living too often. But wisdom does not live in ivory towers, but is found in the supermarket, and in the park, and on a ride. Wisdom must be experienced in Christ, not merely contemplated in abstraction. Fourthly, you commit yourself to a church that honors Christ. Wisdom is not meant to be lived in isolation but in community. In church we celebrate the wisdom of God and the gifts of God alongside the people of God.