Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as knowledge, insight, judgment, generally accepted beliefs and “the teachings of ancient wise men” (Merriam-Webster.com). This post, however, concerns itself with the Biblical definition of wisdom and will make the argument there is no wisdom apart from God. This post will attempt to clearly articulate the Biblical definition of wisdom as it is presented generally throughout the Bible, with a special focus on how wisdom is presented in the Book of Proverbs. After clearly defining Biblical wisdom, this paper will attempt to examine how wisdom should affect the believer’s personal spiritual formation and to answer the question, “What place should it (the pursuit of wisdom) have in the believer’s life?”
Before an adequate definition of wisdom can be articulated it must first be acknowledged that wisdom cannot be separated from God. James 1:5 clearly states that wisdom is a gift from God, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The author of Proverbs also connects wisdom to God when he writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Scripture suggests it is this reverential fear of God that allows one to accept His gift of wisdom. Dr. Thomas Constable argues, “If a person is open to God and teachable, he will become wise, but if he does not accept this instruction and closes his mind, he becomes a fool” (Constable 31). It has been demonstrated that, according to Scripture wisdom is a gift from God and a reverential fear of God opens our heart to receive said gift. However, the question remains, what is wisdom exactly?
Any exact definition of wisdom must derive from the Book of Proverbs. Steveson calls Proverbs “the wisdom book of the Bible” (p. vii). In fact, it is through a study of Proverbs that a definition of wisdom begins to come into focus. The first nine chapters of Proverbs develop a metaphor that contributes greatly to an understanding of wisdom. The metaphor is that of two paths. One is a path of foolishness that leads to ruin. The second is a path of life in the fullest that includes a relationship with God. Longman writes, “the dark path [of foolishness] represents one’s behavior in life, it does not lead to life at all but rather to death” (Longman 26). It only stands to reason then that the path of wisdom represents one’s behavior in life that leads to better and more abundant life. Wisdom can be defined then as the ability to live life with skill. Longman puts it this way, “… wisdom is the skill of living … it is a practical knowledge that helps one know how to act and how to speak in different situations” (Longman 14). Wisdom then can be seen as a gift from God than can only be accepted by one with a reverential fear of God that gives one the ability to live life skillfully.
Having accepted this definition of wisdom the believer must then determine how it should affect their personal spiritual formation and answer the question, “What place should it (the pursuit of wisdom) have in my life?” The priority a believer should give the pursuit of wisdom is quite evident once it is placed in the proper context. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective … But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 26-31). It is none other than Jesus Christ Himself who epitomizes God-given wisdom. It is in His life that we find the perfect example of One who lives life skillfully. Christians are called to abandon their sinful lives and to be more like their Savior. If Christ is wisdom, than pursuing wisdom must be a top priority. Landis writes, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God’s wisdom and this wisdom is displayed in us and through us as righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (Landis Loc. 168). This is true, however, only if the believer understands it is imperative he humbles himself before God and endeavors to be more like Christ.
It has been demonstrated that there is no wisdom apart from God. Wisdom is a gift from God and is only available to those who have a reverential fear of Him. Wisdom was defined as the ability to live life skillfully. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that Jesus Christ is the epitome of God-given wisdom. Christ and wisdom are intertwined. It is imperative for the believer who desires to be more like Christ to endeavor in a pursuit of wisdom. Proverbs makes it clear that there are only two paths – one with God and one without. To live without God is foolishness and leads us to death. The Christian who is pursuing Christ and wisdom, however, has chosen a path that leads to life more abundant. Therefore a pursuit of wisdom must be a top priority for all believers. God has gifted us with wisdom and provided an example to follow in Christ. We must choose the path of life.
Constable, Thomas. “Notes on Proverbs.” SonicLight.com. Retrieved from http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/proverbs.pdf. Web. 24 May 2013.
Landis, B.L. Wisdom is a Heart Thing. B.L. Landis, 2012. Digital.
Longman, Trempor. How to Read the Proverbs. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Steveson, Peter. A Commentary on the Book of Proverbs. Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2001.
“Wisdom.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2013. Web. 24 May 2013.