Wisdom: The Construction
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).
Wisdom is a valuable commodity that few men appreciate. Job 28:12-28 is a discourse on how valuable and rare true godly wisdom is. The only reliable source of wisdom is God because God alone has the understanding of everything. Hence, for a man to learn wisdom he must start with a reverence for God.
Wisdom doesn’t just benefit the wise man. His wisdom becomes a blessing to those around him (I Kings 10:6-8). “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-17).
All that Passes for Wisdom is not Wise
Frequently you read in the Scriptures the contrast between God’s wisdom and the wisdom of this world (I Corinthians 1:20-21, 25; 2:6-8). Where godly wisdom benefits all, worldly wisdom seeks to benefit the individual, even at the expense of harming others. Worldly wisdom is selfish. “Wise” men of this world rarely accept the gospel of Christ because it doesn’t originate with man. Accepting God’s wisdom is admitting that their own ideas are less than God’s (Matthew 11:25; I Corinthians 1:26-29). Worldly wisdom is filled with pride. “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12). A person who thinks he is already wise will not be able to learn wisdom. (See also Romans 12:16; Isaiah 5:21.)
Scholarship is not an indication of acquired wisdom. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness"; and again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."” (1Corinthians 3:18-20). The number of letters after a man’s name, even a doctorate in theology, will not tell you if a man is wise or not. Just because a man claims wisdom and others back him up does not necessarily make it so. “How can you say, 'We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:8-9).
Often times we mistake temporary success as an indication of wisdom. We consider wealthy men as having a good deal of wisdom. However, the Scriptures warn, “The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him” (Proverbs 28:11). Riches can come from successful dealings, but it can also come from deceit, fraud, and other unfair business practices. Riches can be quickly gained during times of ease and just as quickly disappears during difficult years. The amount of funds in a man’s bank account is not a measure of his wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:11). “There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. Then I said: ‘Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, And his words are not heard’” (Ecclesiastes 9:14-16).
While age ought to bring wisdom, it is not always so. Elihu scolded Job’s friends for this. “I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, And dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, 'Age should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom.' But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, Nor do the aged always understand justice” (Job 32:6-9). A young man who listens to and understands the wisdom of God can be far wiser than old men who do not heed God’s teachings. We should not make the mistake of assuming that older people are always wiser. The world does contain old fools.
How Wisdom is Gained
Solomon asked God for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom (I Kings 3:9; II Chronicles 1:10-12) and it was granted to him. Solomon understood that one without the other two was not nearly as useful. Wisdom comes when things are understood – when the reasons are clearly displayed (Proverbs 14:8, 33). A wise person can then pass on his wisdom through teaching (I Kings 11:41; Job 33:31-33).
Generally, a person accumulates wisdom over the years (Job 12:12). Experience teaches men what does and does not work. However, that experience must be coupled with God’s teaching (Job 12:13). On our own, we will sometimes draw the wrong conclusion as to why something does or does not work. God keeps us in line with the truth through His word.
Like knowledge and understanding, wisdom only comes to a person who has a proper reverence for God (Proverbs 9:10). God is the source of all true wisdom, so to gain wisdom, we must approach Him for guidance. James tells us to ask God for wisdom and it will be granted to you (James 1:5-8). Our request must be made with confidence that God will grant what we desire. However, don’t assume that wisdom is granted by God opening our skulls and dropping a scoop of wisdom inside. James does not directly state how God will give us wisdom; he only assures us that God is able and willing to do so. If you go back to verse 2 in James though, you will see that James is discussing the benefits of trials (difficulties). When we face and overcome trials, our character grows. He follows this section by encouraging his readers to ask God for wisdom. The implication is that God will give us wisdom by giving us plenty of experiences in life so that we can develop wisdom.
Some people claim to seek wisdom, but when it is presented they scoff at it and, so, they never find what they are seeking (Proverbs 14:6). Others are selective in what they want to hear. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4). Neither gains wisdom because they have rejected it.
True wisdom comes from righteousness and truth (Proverbs 8:6-8). This is because real wisdom benefits all people. Wickedness benefits no one. You can’t learn leadership from the evil dictators of the world, nor can you learn wisdom from the morally corrupt. Godly wisdom cannot be learned apart from God. “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22). Only through God’s commandments can we obtain wisdom (Psalm 119:98).
Therefore, it is God’s law which teaches men godly wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:6). This law is referred to as God’s wisdom (I Corinthians 2:6-8).
The Gift of Wisdom
God has given wisdom to many people in the past. The men who worked on the tabernacle were granted knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and skill in order to create the tabernacle according to God’s pattern (Exodus 28:3; 31:3; 35:31). The leaders God chose were also granted wisdom from God so they could lead his people (Deuteronomy 34:9, I Kings 4:29-34; Ezra 7:25).
Some of the early disciples were given the word of wisdom by the same Spirit who gave others the word of knowledge (I Corinthians 12:8). These early Christians were able to teach wisdom and knowledge to their fellow Christians by the word given to them by the Spirit of God. The wisdom did not come from their own experience. The teaching was imparting the wisdom of God. Paul spoke of this gift, which we sometimes call “inspiration,” in I Corinthians 2:6-7. “We speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”
As the gift of knowledge, the gift of the word of wisdom passed way (I Corinthians 13:8-11). Yet we are not left without knowledge or wisdom. The Spirit had the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom recorded so that we who live in the distant years can still learn and benefit. “... how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5).
1) How can a person learn to be wise?
2) What are the different types of wisdom?
3) Are all forms of wisdom equally good? Why or why not?
4) Have the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding ceased? How would you prove this?