“the beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom”

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is something everyone wants, at some level; to understand oneself, to give something to the world, to live life well, to come to end of it satisfied. Too often we pervert the meaning of wisdom by making it all about our own distorted visions of happiness, at others’ expense and at the expense of our own real happiness. But even people stuck in obviously self-destructive ruts are, in a twisted way, pursuing “wisdom” in perhaps the only way they know how: to make the hurt go away, to prove they are their own person, whatever.
The Bible paints a picture of real wisdom. In his epistle James describes it like this:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 (ESV)
Other translations make different choices for some of the adjectives in verse 17, such as “submissive” (NIV), “easy to be entreated” (KJV), and “willing to yield to others” (NLT) for “open to reason.” That quality of wisdom – the willingness to hear what others have to say, and not only hear, but eagerly submit when others are closer to the truth than oneself – is one of the defining qualities of wisdom, and the book of Proverbs speaks of it repeatedly. For example:
  • Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you. 9:8
  • The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. 12:15
  • A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. 13:1
  • The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. 15:31
  • Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. 15:32
  • Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. 18:1
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion. 18:2
  • Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 26:12
  • Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. 28:26
A wise person is someone who seeks correction and instruction, who wants to learn, to be led and shepherded, who recognizes the limitations of his or her own understanding, who welcomes rebuke and the input of others. As James said, meekness, peace, gentleness, and willingness to submit to the truth, even when it proves you wrong, characterize heavenly wisdom.
Meanwhile, a fool is not an unintelligent, stupid, or ignorant person. In biblical terminology, a fool is someone who refuses to learn, to be corrected by a higher authority. Morally, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, their only authority is their own opinion and their own carnality. Fools are already “wise in their own eyes” and are therefore dismissive of wisdom itself, even when it – literally or figuratively – shouts in their face (Proverbs 8:1).

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom.” The beginning is to begin. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The Bible defines wise people as those who seek wisdom, who endeavour to submit their entire lives to the truth, even if that means reversing their entire paradigm or giving up all they hold dear – not as those who have already attained all the answers.

Wisdom belongs to God, and seeking wisdom ultimately means seeking God himself. “Seek his face” – seek him, personally, and he will not hide from you, nor will he withhold wisdom from you, if you will simply ask.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

2 thoughts on ““the beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom”

  1. Pingback: Sick of Occupy Wall Street? Me Too. Read this and be done with it. « Stuff That Interests Me

  2. Pingback: two ears, one mouth: coincidence? « en deshabille

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