Two weeks ago, Jim Armstrong visited our class and taught about Solomon’s wisdom. I loved his story about his wife’s dress; when she asked if it made her look fat, his answer showed he lacked wisdom.
So you’ll excuse me if I was a little confused when I started looking into my bible study assignment for this week and realized it was about Solomon’s wisdom. Again. I saw Jim Armstrong in the elevator a couple of weeks back and asked to just borrow his notes and teach the same lesson again. It would save me a lot of time.
So recently my wife bought a new dress….
No, I’m just kidding. Jim’s lesson was excellent, but we are going to have a very different lesson on wisdom. Whereas Jim taught us the difference between knowledge and wisdom and focused on 1 Kings 3, today we’re going to talk about how the best wisdom also depends on knowledge, how the bible provides both wisdom and knowledge, and that the wisdom in the bible provides not only spiritual wisdom, but also worldly wisdom. As we continue our study of what makes a Godly leader, we include Godly wisdom as a key attribute of a Godly leader. We are going to spend some time on the proverbs that Solomon wrote.
God has placed each and every one of us on this world for a purpose. To love God with all our heart, our soul, our strength, our mind, and also to love one another. That means we must learn to live in this world and live with one another in a way that brings glory to God, letting our light shine so others may see the truth and light that dwells within us. But navigating this world can be hard. While we know the source of all truth begins with God’s word, applying those truths to a fallen world or around people that have rejected God aren’t always so easy to do. We need wisdom.
What is Wisdom?
So what is wisdom? Is it the same as education? I have a short educational video that examines the importance of education.
Or maybe it’s a college diploma? Having a diploma is definitely an indicator of wisdom.
So maybe a diploma isn’t what makes somebody smart. Nope, a godly leader exhibits wisdom, and wisdom is composed of three parts –
This world is a dangerous place, not just spiritually but mentally and physically and every way you can imagine. We need wisdom to live and we need wisdom to thrive, and we need this wisdom every day and in every aspect of our life, in relationships, in finances, in sex, in work, in discipline, in parenting, and more. Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to give his people, and us, guidance we need for life, because our lives are complex. Not every decision has a clear black and white answer.
Lets start be offering a definition of wisdom:
Wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created.
And as long as we are studying definitions, let’s examine the definition of the word “Proverb.”
A proverb is a verb that has lost its amateur status.
Most of the book of Proverbs is written by King Solomon. Solomon was considered the wisest man of all time. And when Solomon ascended to the throne of David, God offered Solomon anything he wanted. Solomon could have asked for gold, power, fame, long life, anything at all. The treasury of heaven was opened wide and Solomon went shopping with a credit card that had no limit. Anything.
But Solomon did not ask for gold, or power, or fame, or long life. Solomon knew he could not rule Israel without God. Instead of asking for gold or power or fame, Solomon asked for the ability to skillfully navigate being the king of Israel.
In 1 Kings 3:7-9, Solomon said,
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
In other words, Solomon asked for Wisdom.
The Lord’s response in 1 Kings 3:10-14,
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
This response reminds me of God’s promises to us. Are we to seek fame or fortune, wealth or power? In Matthew 6, Jesus provides a lot of information on how to live our lives – without worry, don’t brag, give to the needy, don’t store up treasures on earth – but then in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says,
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Whatever our desires are, don’t chase after our desires. Chase after Jesus, and He will give us our desires.
So Solomon received Wisdom and all of God’s other blessings, and then Solomon with his God-given wisdom wrote down the Proverbs so that we, too, may learn to become wise. The Proverbs are lessons and principles given to us by God to help up navigate His world successfully. Wisdom is the foundation for successful living. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 8:35-36,
For those who find me [wisdom] find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.”
So if we want to find life and receive favor from the Lord, then we must follow God’s wisdom. If we want to walk in pain, disappointment, and continuous frustration in life, then all we have to do is ignore God’s wisdom.
To gain wisdom, we start with a good foundation of knowledge. Solomon wrote Proverbs to the people of Israel so that they could sail the sea of life without crashing into the rocks and sink. Many of the young Israelites were establishing their independence, moving out of adolescence and into adulthood. They were and age where they’d get married and begin their careers. They needed a handbook to navigate the world.
The book of Proverbs provides many simple truths like Proverbs 12:22 –
The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
Simple to understand. Thou shalt not lie, and keep your promises.
Proverbs 10:4 –
A slack hand causes poverty but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
In other words, work hard. You cannot succeed if you don’t work.
Proverbs 12:4 –
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
I’m not sure if this is advice given to the men or the women. Let’s say it’s for both. Men, your wife is a crown, like precious jewelry, so take care of them. Women, you can either be a crown or you can be rotten, your choice. Either way, I’ve met some singles over the years that are so desperate to find a spouse, they’ll marry anybody without first asking God if it’s God’s plan. Marrying a godly spouse doesn’t eliminate marital strife, but it makes solutions to arguments so much easier.
Proverbs 18:6 –
A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
In other words, just watch your mouth.
And Proverbs 22:11,
He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend.
None of these truths are difficult to understand. They are not secrets to cheat at the game of life. They are simply truths, rules that God has established for us to have success in life. Honesty is better than lying. Work is better than laziness. Select a spouse based on their heart. Don’t keep talking when you don’t know what you’re saying. If you’re kind and gracious you will befriend influential people.
But knowledge alone doesn’t make us wise. Over the years, I’ve met some very educated people that don’t seem to have a lick of common sense. God didn’t just lay out a bunch of rules and say, “Do this and don’t do that.” If we look at the people Jesus had the most difficulty with, it was the Pharisees who could quote all 613 mitzvots in the Torah but didn’t understand *why* God established all those mitzvots. Knowledge without understanding is foolishness.
What good is knowledge unless you have understanding? Proverbs doesn’t teach us to be an engineer, a painter, or an accountant. Proverbs teaches us to master life.
Superficial knowledge produces a shallow life and foolish living. God’s goal in the book of Proverbs is not for us to just possess the facts, but for us to grasp the reality of what lays beneath the surface of the facts. To comprehend that below the surface of reality, God created His world with the understanding that wisdom works. Wisdom is woven into the very fabric of our reality. Life operates best when we live wisely.
Solomon writes about Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31,
“I [Wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
Understanding helps us to push past the “what” and peer into the “why.” Understanding helps the information and the informed work together for good.
Choosing God’s path of wisdom means that we don’t endure the heartaches of sin now. The person who chooses the world’s path may enjoy temporary pleasures, but these pleasures often have consequences that follow. When a Christian chooses what is right, he has no shame, no heartache, and no fear that the consequences will catch up and overtake him, Proverbs 3:13-14 –
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
So the book of Proverbs has so much wisdom to teach us, but also how to apply it to our lives –
- A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
- It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
- The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
- Do not toil to acquire wealth be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)
- Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)
- When a man walks in integrity and justice, happy are his children after him. (Proverbs 20:7)
- Truthful lips endure forever, the lying tongue, for only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19)
- A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
- He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31)
- Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)
- The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
- Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
- A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. (Proverbs 11:17)
- A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. (Proverbs 29:2)
- In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)
- The whole point of Proverbs is to make us wise. Wisdom is evident in our lives when we exhibit knowledge, understanding, and application.
Tony said something last week – remember the aunt that was in heaven on her own little tiny cloud? Tony also said he met somebody that told him, “you don’t know what the bible says, let me give you this pamphlet that will help.” That is blatantly untrue. The bible explains itself and provides all the wisdom anybody needs to understand the bible as well as life, love, work, finances, everything. It’s all in there.
How Do I Get Wisdom?
1. Recognize where wisdom comes from. Listen to Proverbs 1:7 –
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Ultimately, the fear of the Lord means that believers understand that they shall stand before the Lord Jesus one day and give an account; those who choose the way of death will be ashamed, while those who choose life will rejoice.
All throughout Proverbs we see the repeated phrase “The fear of the LORD”.
The fear of the Lord is not a terrifying fear that God is going to punish me if I disobey. The fear of the LORD that Solomon mentions throughout Proverbs is a reverence for God and a respect for His power.
Remember wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created. We become wise when we recognize this is God’s world and His approach to life works best. We are not naturally wise people. Wisdom comes supernaturally through our response to God.
2. Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect
Then, in Proverbs 8:32-33, Solomon writes –
And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
A three step process: Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect
Listen – Solomon wants us to be aware that wisdom will only come through active listening for God’s instruction. We must study what God says about living a wise life. Proverbs is 31 chapters long, one for every day of the month. It’s almost as if God is telling us that we have a need for wisdom every day and an opportunity to receive wisdom every day.
Keep – Wise living only occurs when we keep His ways. The word “keep” here means to obey. Foolish living occurs when we recognize God’s wisdom but reject it. But those who are truly wise will keep the principles of a wise life laid out in the book of Proverbs.
Do not neglect – Wisdom is a lot like physical fitness. A lot of us start the fitness journey in the same way, we realize our current health isn’t what it used to be. We are more winded going up the stairs, our pants don’t fit as well as they used to, and the scale keeps climbing up and up. So, what we do is we begin to research. We look up plans to improve our fitness. We look at all the benefits of various healthy diets. We talk to people who are in better shape than us, possibly a trainer. We get an app to track our fitness progress and goals. We even buy a new pair of shoes.
But that isn’t enough to make us physically fit. All the research and planning isn’t enough if we have neglect to, you know, actually work out. We have to apply what we learned.
At any point in time in our physical fitness journey, we can become unfit. We can neglect the gym. We can neglect stretching. We can neglect healthy eating. A life of fitness can start and stop at any time. Most of us have started a diet, broken our diet, and restarted our diet, sometimes in the same day.
A life of wisdom is a life of persistence. It takes continual discipline and hard work to build a wise life. If we want to possess the skills, we need for navigating the complexities of life, then we can’t afford to neglect wisdom.
It comes down to our choice to put into practice that which is revealed.
Wisdom helps us steward our lives well and provides a life that may influence others in order to bring glory to God.
Do you want wisdom? James 1:5,
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
So be smart. S-M-R-T. Ask God for His wisdom.
To God be the glory.