Intermediate 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.

The Precedence of Godly Wisdom

“Godly Wisdom” is used here to denote the wisdom which the Bible advocates, wisdom which is based on the Bible’s teachings.

Godly wisdom is superior to anything else

Wisdom is supreme – so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding!   Proverbs 4:7 NET

[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.   Proverbs 8:10-11 ISV

Worldly wisdom is flawed and inferior to the wisdom of God

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”; …   1 Corinthians 3:18-19 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. In v. 18, “become a fool” means 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” – so as to be open to true, godly wisdom.

Worldly wisdom is ultimately futile, even detrimental

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

Wisdom through God

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom

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

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.   James 1:5 NET

. . . For it is God who gives wisdom

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.   Daniel 2:21b ISV

Obeying God’s commands brings wisdom

[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.”   Deuteronomy 4:5-6 NET

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

Wisdom involves doing what is right – and avoiding evil

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

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

Wisdom through Others

Pay attention to instruction

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.   Proverbs 23:12, 19 NET

Heed discipline and correction

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.   Proverbs 15:5, 32 NET

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

Wise Speech

Be quick to listen and slow to speak

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

Use few words

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

Speak graciously

The words spoken by the wise are gracious …   Ecclesiastes 10:12a ISV

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

Remember that our words are determined by our “heart”

The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart. 35Good people have good things in their hearts, and so they say good things. But evil people have evil in their hearts, so they say evil things.   Matthew 12:34b-35 NCV™

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

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

Do not act in haste

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

Work hard

[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.   2 Thessalonians 3:7b-8 CEV

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.   Proverbs 31:13-19 NET

Enjoy life and be happy

[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.   Ecclesiastes 8:15 NET

[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, …   Ecclesiastes 3:12 NET

Pray for persecuted Christians