The "What" of Biblical Wisdom
Spiritual Questions with Scriptural Answers (Part 2).
This week my wife and kids are on spring break, and we are enjoying a few days at the Memphis School of Preaching lectures.
So - I decided to take a little bit of a “break” this week from writing. Thankfully, Drew Suttles sent me another round of articles. So we will be benefiting from his articles on biblical wisdom this week!
What is wisdom?
If we asked this question to the world we might get conflicting answers. For example, one might say, “Wisdom is staying single,” while another says, “Wisdom is getting married.” Yet again, one may say, “Wisdom is working hard and storing up money for you, your children, and grandchildren,” when another says, “Wisdom is living for the moment and doing what you enjoy.”
For our purposes, we want to look to the true source of wisdom: The Word of God! In our last article, we discussed the “Who” of wisdom pointing to the God of Heaven.
In this article, our goal is to learn what the Bible says regarding the “what” of wisdom.
The Definition of Biblical Wisdom.
Wisdom, the application of knowledge, “rests in the heart of him who has understanding” (Prov. 14:33). According to the Scriptures, wisdom is the “principal thing” (Prov. 4:7) and is “better than rubies” (Prov. 8:11).
Consider the following definition and description of “wisdom” from Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible:
“Wisdom is a capacity of the mind; in the OT it involves both knowledge and the ability to direct the mind toward a full understanding of human life and toward its moral fulfillment. Wisdom is thus a special capacity, necessary for full human living, but one which can be acquired through education and the application of the mind. The wisdom literature in the OT is that literature which has this special concept of wisdom as its central theme. It comprises principally the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and may also be found in portions of the psalms and prophets. The wisdom literature contains both the moral substance of true wisdom and also the intellectual explorations of wise men seeking to understand the fundamental problems of human existence (Jb, Eccl).” Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Wisdom, Wisdom Literature,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2149.
When the mind is trained by the Word of God, true wisdom can be exhibited. It should be the goal of every human being to learn the mind of God which has been revealed through both creation and His Word (Psalm 19; 1 Cor. 2:9-13). Then, he or she should strive to be like God by doing what is right (1 Pet. 1:13-17).
With the space remaining, I invite you to the introduction of the Book of Proverbs (Prov. 1:1-7).
Proverbs and Biblical Wisdom.
Consider the meaning of the text:
“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion — A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Here, the inspired writer plainly points to the purpose of the book and incidentally helps to define the “what” of wisdom.
First, there is “knowledge” (facts acquired through experience or education).
Second, there is “wisdom” (applied knowledge).
Third, there is “prudence” (applying wisdom to action).
When a man or woman has these three ingredients and puts them together, he or she can then be wise.
The reverence of the Lord is the chief part of knowledge, thus wisdom begins with God, flows from God, and is acquired and applied by the children of God.
Wisdom is applying the truth of God to our lives to His glory.
Wisdom is knowing what to do and why we should do it.
Wisdom is knowing when to speak and when to be silent; when to follow and when to flee; when to step up and when to step back.
May we all strive to be wise! In our next article, we will ask and answer the question, “When must we be wise?”
Drew Suttles is a minister for the Quitman church of Christ in Quitman, Georgia, and one of my best friends in this world. They live-stream all their Bible classes and sermons on their YouTube channel.
Drew also hosts the “Weathering the Storm” podcast on the Scattered Abroad Network. Drew talks about facing life’s challenges as a child of God. His podcast will be a blessing to your life.
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