Let’s kick off a series all about wisdom. What is wisdom? How do I get it? Where does it come from? What does the Bible say about it, and of course, why is wisdom important?
I think most of us know enough to know that wisdom is a good thing and the majority of us would say we want it. If asked, would you rather be wise or foolish, I doubt most of us would choose the path of the fool. And yet in reality, a life actually guided by wisdom and lived out without foolishness is hard to come by. But why is this true?
How can we be different and make better choices? How can we find and apply wisdom so that we know what to do when life gets tough? These are some of the questions we seek to answer in this series on Biblical wisdom. So let’s get started by asking the most foundational question to this discussion: What IS wisdom?
What is Wisdom?
I decided to start by asking Google. “Hey Google, what is wisdom?” She told me that it is “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement.” Then I just searched, “Define wisdom.” And found that The Merriam Webster Dictionary said it was the “ability to discern inner qualities and relationships: insight: good sense or judgement…”
In both sources there was another definition too. Google said it was “the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period”, and Merriam Webster called it “accumulated philosophical or scientific learning: knowledge”
I like to sum all that up like this: Wisdom is knowledge coupled with good judgement.
In other words, it’s not enough to know a lot of information. That alone might make us smart or knowledgeable, but it won’t make us wise. However, when we have the good sense to take all the information we accumulate and turn it into applicable truths that will guide our lives and help us to make good choices, we start to see why wisdom is important, and we move from smart to wise.
What is wisdom according to the Bible?
Of course, around here we’re less interested in Google or Merriam Webster’s definition of a thing, and more interested in what the Bible has to say on the matter. That’s why in the next two posts in this series we’ll take a deep dive into a whole bunch of Scripture passages to discover so many things that the Bible has to say about wisdom and why wisdom is important. But in the meantime, let’s just look at a few key verses to help us answer our questions: what is wisdom, where does wisdom come from, and why is wisdom important.
Job 28:28 – …The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.
What is wisdom? According to the Bible, it is forsaking evil and the fear of the Lord. This of course leads us to ask, what exactly is the fear of the Lord?
I’ve already written a whole series centered around that question, so I won’t belabor it here. If you want to dig into the topic, you can go read this post: Walking in the fear of the Lord. I will quote a small section of that post here though to sum up the fear of the Lord:
[The fear of the Lord] “is seeing God for who He actually is and holding Him in such high esteem that we take VERY seriously what He has said, and therefore, live in obedience to it. Walking in the the fear of the Lord means we’re keeping Him in the right place in our lives, never shrugging off or making light of anything He has said, and never daring to shake our fists in His face. The Bible says that to live this way is wisdom, and it is life.”
But the Bible offers a little more in answer to the question, “what is wisdom?”. In the New Testament we find these two passages:
1 Corinthians 1:30 – God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.
Colossians 2:2-3 – I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself. In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ IS wisdom itself. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hidden in Him.
*For a more in-depth exploration of the words the Bible uses for wisdom, check out this article: What is Wisdom by Dan Hanlon.
Where Does Wisdom Come From?
I guess that means it will come as no surprise then, that the answer to the question, “where does wisdom come from?” is that it comes from God. If Jesus (who is God), IS wisdom, then wisdom is naturally going to come from Him.
Proverbs 2:6 – For the Lord grands wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
James 1:5 – If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will not rebuke you for asking.
As we dig deeper into this topic throughout this series, we’ll learn a lot more about how to get wisdom from God and what stipulations He has put on our asking. For now, though, we simply need to understand that all true wisdom is going to come directly from Him because wisdom cannot be separated from Him. If something does not align with God and His ways, it is foolishness not wisdom. Plain and simple.
Simplify it. What is Wisdom?
Alright. We’ve found several definitions of wisdom to pull from. Let’s put it all together and see if we can come up with a simplified definition that incorporates all of it.
- Google & Merriam Webster – Wisdom is accumulated knowledge coupled with good judgement.
- The Old Testament – Wisdom is the fear of the Lord
- The New Testament – Wisdom is Christ himself.
What is wisdom? Wisdom is learning all we can about who God is, how He (Jesus) lived, and what He says and then placing such great value on that knowledge that we learn how to apply it to our own lives, asking God to guide us and give us good judgement.
Why is Wisdom Important?
Now we know what wisdom is and where it comes from. But perhaps we need to decide why it even matters. Why is wisdom important? What difference does it make whether we live our lives according to God’s standards or some other measure of right and wrong? Here’s what the Bible says:
Proverbs 8:11 – For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.
Proverbs 9:12 – If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.
The fool demonstrates why wisdom is important
When I say the word “fool” I bet there is someone you know who pops into your head. I’m sure we all know people who just make dumb choices. Like all the time. These people rush into decisions over and over again based purely on their own whims and desires and their own weird opinions about what qualifies as a good idea. And they continually find themselves in trouble. They fail time and time again but never seem to learn anything for the next time.
What’s funny is, these people who we all think of as fools almost never seem to know it about themselves. Often, they’re the ones loudly pontificating in every social gathering as if they have all the answers to all the unanswerable questions. They’re the ones confidently telling everyone else what they should do in whatever difficult situation they’ve fallen into. Even though everyone in the room knows they never seem to apply those answers in their own lives!
There are a lot of Bible stories that come to mind when I think about a person like that. Balaam, Cain, Judas, Jezebel, Jonah. Their foolishness demonstrates to us why wisdom is important. But one in particular really jumps out at me. It’s the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. You can find a lot about him in many parts of the Bible, but the part of his story I’m talking about is found in the first four chapters of Daniel. I’ll summarize.
King Nebuchadnezzar shows us why wisdom is important
King Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon when the Kingdom of Judah was conquered and taken into exile. He’s the guy who singled out Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) for special service among his advisors and wise men. He’s also the guy who built the giant gold statue and demanded that everyone worship it. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused he’s the one who had them thrown into the fiery furnace. But God rescued them and King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that there was no other god like the God of these men.
That’s only the beginning of the story though. Because of his relationship with Daniel and his friends, King Nebuchadnezzar had many encounters with the One True God. This God gave Daniel the ability to interpret the kings dreams on more than one occasion and again, in those instances the king acknowledged God’s might and power over all things.
Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to really sink into his heart though. It didn’t change how he lived his life or humble how he viewed himself. Despite his declarations that the God of the Hebrews was “the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries,” (Daniel 2:47) King Nebuchadnezzar still set up that big gold idol. He went on thinking more highly of himself than of God.
Later, when God gave him a dream with a warning to stop sinning and turn to Him, Nebuchadnezzar ignored it. Instead, he walked out on his palace roof, looked out over his kingdom and declared, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.” (Daniel 4:30)
The absolute foolishness of that statement had serious consequences.
No sooner had the words left his mouth than a voice from heaven spoke and told him that he was no longer the ruler of Babylon. It told him he was about to be driven from human society and would live like a wild animal for seven years until he learned that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone He chooses.”
Sure enough, within the hour the guy went completely insane. He became like an animal. His hair and nails grew wild, he lived in the open fields, and he ate grass. He was driven from human society and lost his place as ruler.
But seven years later, just as God had predicted in that dream, his sanity returned. Immediately and without hesitation Nebuchadnezzar praised and worshiped the Most High God. And when he did, his kingdom was restored to him and he was placed in a place of even greater honor than before. Here is what King Nebuchadnezzar said about God after that:
“His rule is everlasting, and His kingdom is eternal.
All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him.
He does as He pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth.
No one can stop Him or say to Him, ‘What to you mean by doing these things?'” Daniel 4:35
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All His acts are just and true, and He is able to humble the proud.”
I think that story says it all. Why is wisdom important? Because without it our lives are going to fall apart!
When we think we know better than God, or have accomplished something without Him, or place ourselves higher than him in any way, it is absolute foolishness and it comes with the risk of ruin. In contrast, we can look at the lives of men like David or better yet his son Solomon, who asked God for wisdom and was given what he asked. As a result, he prospered in every possible way (at least as long as he continued living in that wisdom) and has been remembered throughout history for his splendor and his wisdom.
I’d rather have that legacy. How about you?
So let’s come back next time to dive deep into Scripture and discover all we can about Biblical wisdom. We’ll learn even more to fill out our answer to the questions what is wisdom and why is wisdom important, plus so much more so we can apply it in our own lives and flourish!