What is wisdom? Do we need wisdom? How do we get it? These questions surrounding wisdom can be puzzling. The Bible is full of information about wisdom and there are actually entire books dedicated to the idea of wisdom. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the book of Job are three main literature pieces that deal with wisdom. In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the important aspects of these books to get a better understanding of what God says about wisdom.
Wisdom can simply be defined as the application of knowledge to discern what is right and good. We should always make note that wisdom is not the same as knowledge. Knowledge is information gained. Wisdom is information applied, in the simplest form. However, the definition of wisdom doesn’t end there.
There are two types of wisdom the Bible warns us of. James 3:14-18 warns us of “earthly” wisdom and “wisdom from above”. These two types of wisdom define the path in life we will take. Will we take the path of earthly wisdom or the wisdom that comes from above? It is a decision we all have to make everyday and it can affect how we live our lives. Let’s look at what the Bible says about true wisdom to get a better understanding.
First, we must start at the beginning. How do we get wisdom? Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The beginning of wisdom is fearing the Lord. This is not a shutter fear of God, but rather a humble reverence or awe for our God. So we see that wisdom first begins when we humble ourselves. Pride and proudness do not lead to true wisdom, only the humble seek and find true wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). We must also realize where true wisdom comes from, or at least where the “wisdom from above” comes from. Proverbs 2:6 gives us the source of wisdom, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding”. Solomon proclaims that the Lord gives wisdom and wisdom comes from Him, along with knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 8 is probably one of the more popular passages about wisdom and it is very intriguing. It is a passage about wisdom being personified as a woman and it is wisdom who is the speaker for most of it. There are so many wonderful verses in this passage that give us insight into the wisdom of God. For example, verse 23 says, “I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.” A better translation would be, “I was possessed long ages ago”. This idea of God possessing wisdom in the very beginning is crucial to the understanding of God’s wisdom. It is another attribute of God, and wisdom we can possess as well.
Wisdom comes from God but yet it also comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Acts 6:10 says, “But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.” Here, Stephen is the “he” in this context and he was full of the Spirit. The Spirit, as he proclaimed the gospel, was giving him the words to say, giving him wisdom to speak to the people. Wisdom came from the Spirit and it does so with us today too.
Wisdom from God is noticeably different from the wisdom of man. James 3:17 puts it this way, “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.” This wisdom from above is not something that is just in the mind. Rather, it expresses itself through our words and our actions in life. James calls it pure, considerate, and merciful. Some of these might sound familiar with the fruit of the spirit (peace and kindness). When we have wisdom from God, there is peace in our relationships, we are true with ourselves, each other and God. We are just and full of mercy and compassion, just like God is.
The other “wisdom”, earthly wisdom is much different. There are two key components to this wisdom that James warns us to stay away from. Envy and selfish ambition are what drive this wisdom. This wisdom leads to broken relationships and a chaotic life. It is not like God’s wisdom, it is just the opposite. This kind of wisdom is advertised everywhere, it looks appealing and there is nothing bad about it that is put out. It is not until you taste the wisdom of this world and fall into its trap that you find it is not wisdom at all. God’s wisdom is the only wisdom that leads to life.
The Bible has much to say about wisdom and there is just not enough time to cover everything it has to say about wisdom. We can conclude with these thoughts. Wisdom from God is the only true wisdom. Fearing Yahweh is the beginning of that wisdom and the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom of God.