TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  Being Wise

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Chapter 33  Part I

Being Wise

Wisdom is one of the attributes most highly valued in the Bible. Thankfully the Bible says much about how we can gain wisdom. The Bible also contains very astute advice on other topics associated with wisdom, notably speaking – a key medium that we use in relating to others.

Prologue: The Precedence of Godly Wisdom

Note that the term “godly wisdom” is used in this section to denote the wisdom which the Bible advocates, wisdom which is based on the Bible’s teachings.

Godly wisdom is superior to anything else

Prov 4:7a  Wisdom is supreme …  NET

Prov 8:10-11  [Wisdom:] Grab hold of my instruction in lieu of money and knowledge instead of the finest gold, 11because wisdom is better than precious gems and nothing you desire can compare to it.  ISV

The speaker here is wisdom personified.

Worldly wisdom is flawed and inferior to the wisdom of God . . .

1Cor 3:18-19  No one should fool himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise by this world’s standards, he should become a fool, in order to be really wise. 19For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight. As the scripture says, “God traps the wise in their cleverness”; …  GNT

Here Paul portrays worldly wisdom as inferior to the wisdom of God – to both the wisdom of God himself (v. 19) and to godly wisdom (v. 18), which ultimately comes from God. Note that in saying that one should become a “fool” (v. 18), Paul means that one needs to forgo aspiring to the flawed wisdom of this world and recognize the shortcomings of one’s understanding – in effect see oneself as a “fool” – in order to be open to true, godly wisdom.

. . . Worldly wisdom is ultimately futile, even detrimental

1Cor 3:20b  “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  NET

Rom 1:21-23  [Paul, speaking of wicked people:] For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four–footed animals or reptiles.  NET

The claim to be wise (v. 22) may have had some substance, but clearly this was a wisdom apart from God (vv. 21, 23) – worldly wisdom. As such it produced futile thinking and foolishness (v. 21b), manifested in foolish actions that would prove very detrimental (v. 23; cf. vv. 24-32).

So get godly wisdom and be wise . . .

Prov 4:5, 7  [A wise father, to his son:] Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. … 7Wisdom is supreme – so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding!  NET

Eph 5:15  Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise, …  NET

. . . Seek out wisdom and knowledge

Prov 2:3-5  … yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  ESV

Prov 15:14  The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.  NET

 Questions for Section A

Wisdom through God

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom

Prov 9:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  ESV

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom as it leads us to base our thinking and life on God and his teachings or commands – the source of true wisdom for life. For fear of God moves us to obey God’s commands and do what is right, thus manifesting wisdom (as indicated in the following two subsections).

Ask God for wisdom . . .

James 1:5  But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.  NET

Ps 119:34, 66a  [A psalmist, to God:] Give me understanding so that I might observe your law, and keep it with all my heart. … 66Teach me proper discernment and understanding!  NET

. . . For it is God who gives wisdom

Dan 2:20b-21  [Daniel:] May the name of God be blessed forever and ever; wisdom and power are his for evermore. 21It is God who alters the times and seasons, and he removes kings and promotes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  ISV

Obeying God’s commands brings wisdom

Deut 4:5-6  [Moses, to the Israelites:] Look! I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as the Lord my God told me to do, so that you might carry them out in the land you are about to enter and possess. 6So be sure to do them, because this will testify of your wise understanding to the people who will learn of all these statutes and say, “Indeed, this great nation is a very wise people.”  NET

Ps 119:100  [A psalmist, to God:] I have greater wisdom than those who are old, because I obey your commands.  GNT

Note: Wisdom involves doing what is right – and shunning evil

Prov 4:11  [A wise father, to his son:] I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths.  NET

Prov 14:16  A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is overconfident.  NET

 Questions for Section B

Wisdom through Others

Note that the verses in this section speak – largely at least – of wisdom being acquired through godly people. Such wisdom is ultimately from God.

Pay attention to instruction . . .

Prov 23:12, 19  Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to the words of knowledge.19Listen, my child, and be wise, and guide your heart on the right way.  NET

. . . For wise people heed and learn from instruction

Prov 13:1  A wise son heeds his father’s instruction …  NKJV

Prov 9:9  Give instruction to a wise person, and he will become wiser still; teach a righteous person and he will add to his learning.  NET

Listen to advice

Prov 19:20  Listen to advice and accept correction, and in the end you will be wise.  NCV™

Accept rebuke . . .

Prov 15:31  Whoever listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  ISV

. . . Additional insights on accepting rebuke

Eccl 7:5  It is better to listen to a wise person’s rebuke than to listen to the praise of fools.  ISV

Prov 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.  NET

Emotional wounds resulting from a friend’s rebuke can be trusted to have been inflicted with one’s benefit in view.

Heed discipline and correction

Prov 15:5, 32  A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds reproof shows good sense.32The one who refuses correction despises himself, but whoever hears reproof acquires understanding.  NET

Here “reproof” appears to refer to a rebuke or reprimand, a form of discipline (v. 5) or correction (v. 32).

Further insights on gaining wisdom

Prov 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  NET

Prov 14:29  Patient people have great understanding, but people with quick tempers show their foolishness.  NCV™

Prov 27:17  As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend.  NET

As one piece of iron can be used to sharpen another, so through discussion and debate with another, one can sharpen one’s mind.

 Questions for Section C

Wise Speech (I): Instructions

Be quick to listen and slow to speak

James 1:19  Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.  NET

Be careful when speaking

Prov 13:3  Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined.  NCV™

Use few words

Prov 10:19  When words abound, transgression is inevitable, but the one who restrains his words is wise.  NET

Eccl 6:11  The more words there are, the more pointless they become. What advantage do mortals gain from this?  GW

Speak gently

Prov 15:1  A gentle answer quietens anger, but a harsh one stirs it up.  GNT

2Tim 2:25  The Lord’s servant must gently teach those who disagree. Then maybe God will let them change their minds so they can accept the truth.  NCV™

Speak graciously

Eccl 10:12  The words spoken by the wise are gracious, but the lips of a fool will devour him.  ISV

Col 4:6  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.  NET

Do not sin in what you say

Ps 17:3b  [David:] I am determined I will say nothing sinful.  NET

Note: Instructions and insights on giving rebuke

Luke 17:3  Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.  NET

2Tim 3:16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, …  GNT

Prov 27:5  Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  NET

Open rebuke is better than love that is shut off. The implication here may well be that one who truly loves another will openly rebuke them (cf. CEV) if the need arises.

 Questions for Section D

Wise Speech (II): Insights

The righteous speak wisely . . .

Prov 10:31-32  The words of the righteous overflow with wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut out. 32Righteous lips know what is prudent, but the words of the wicked are perverse.  ISV

. . . One’s words are determined by the “heart”

Matt 12:34-35  [Jesus, to the Pharisees:] Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. 35The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury.  NET

In v. 35, “treasury” refers to the thoughts and feelings that people have stored up in their hearts. Words that are wise and good come from a “heart” that is good/righteous and wise. Conversely, foolish and evil words come from a “heart” that has such characteristics.

Wise speech is of great value

Prov 25:11  Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.  NET

The speech of the wise imparts wisdom and knowledge

Ps 49:3  [A wise person:] My mouth shall speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.  NKJV

Prov 15:7  The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but not so the heart of fools.  NET

Further ways wise speech benefits others

Prov 12:18  Speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing.  NET

Prov 13:14  Instruction from the wise is like a life–giving fountain, to turn a person from deadly snares.  NET

Beware: The tongue has great power, capable of evil and destructive effects

James 3:4-8  And look at ships! They are so big that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are steered wherever the pilot pleases by a tiny rudder. 5In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it can boast of great achievements. A huge forest can be set on fire by a little flame. 6The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. Placed among the parts of our bodies, the tongue contaminates the whole body and sets on fire the course of life, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be or have been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison.  ISV

The tongue has great influence over the whole body, capable of devastating effects on one’s life and on others. In saying that the tongue is “set on fire by hell” (v. 6), James appears to allude to its evil disposition having Satanic origins – which ultimately is true of all evil. Note that with the use of “tongue”, James is speaking ultimately of the heart which manifests itself in the words of the tongue.

 Questions for Section E

Wise Personal Practices

The following topics are prominent in what are known as the Bible’s wisdom books, notably in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes – as well as occurring elsewhere in the Bible.

Be self-controlled . . .

Titus 2:6  [Paul, instructing Titus what to teach:] Tell the young men to have self-control in everything.  CEV

. . . Self-control comes from God and wisdom

2Tim 1:7  [Paul, to Timothy:] For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self–control.  NET

Gal 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self–control. Against such things there is no law.  NET

Prov 29:11  Foolish people lose their tempers, but wise people control theirs.  NCV™

Do not act in haste

Prov 19:2  It is dangerous to have zeal without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily makes poor choices.  NET

Work hard . . .

2Thes 3:7b-9  [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] We didn’t waste our time loafing, 8and we didn’t accept food from anyone without paying for it. We didn’t want to be a burden to any of you, so night and day we worked as hard as we could. 9We had the right not to work, but we wanted to set an example for you.  CEV

Prov 31:13-19  She [a wife of noble character] obtains wool and flax, and she is pleased to work with her hands. 14She is like the merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. 15She also gets up while it is still night, and provides food for her household and a portion to her female servants. 16She considers a field and buys it; from her own income she plants a vineyard. 17She begins her work vigorously, and she strengthens her arms. 18She knows that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out in the night. 19Her hands take hold of the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.  NET

. . . Ensure you have adequate provisions

Prov 6:6-8  Go to the ant, you sluggard; observe its ways and be wise! 7It has no commander, overseer, or ruler, 8yet it prepares its food in the summer; it gathers at the harvest what it will eat.  NET

The ant is a great example of producing adequate provisions.

Enjoy life and be happy

Eccl 8:15  [A wise teacher:] So I recommend the enjoyment of life, for there is nothing better on earth for a person to do except to eat, drink, and enjoy life. So joy will accompany him in his toil during the days of his life which God gives him on earth.  NET

Eccl 3:12  [A wise teacher:] I have concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they live, …  NET

 Questions for Section F

Pray for persecuted Christians