What Is Wisdom?
The book of Proverbs is quite an interesting book. Every verse is a new bit of astonishing wisdom, most of it written by King David’s son Solomon. Though many of the proverbs are more or less unrelated, there is an overarching theme throughout the entire book. The very first chapter states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” (Proverbs 1:7), and Proverbs 9:10 reiterates, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” The majority of the book focuses on this topic, showing us different examples of how a wise person lives.
But what exactly is wisdom? We know that the fear of God is the beginning of it, but what does it mean to be truly wise? Solomon gives quite a few answers to this question. In Proverbs 15:33, he writes, “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” When we fear God, we listen to what He says and obey Him. It certainly takes a good deal of humility to do this, because in so doing, we’re admitting that God’s way is better than our own way. So then, a wise person must first be humble. He must acknowledge that he needs God’s help to do what is right and must truly believe that God’s plan is absolutely superior to his own.
Second, the wise person trusts God. In Proverbs 23:17-18, Solomon advises, “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” When we look at the lives of unbelievers, it often seems as if they have things easier than we do. But the wise person will refuse to give into the temptation to be jealous of others, instead trusting that God knows what is best for him. God has promised that He has a plan for us, and part of fearing Him—and thereby increasing in wisdom—is trusting that He’s going to do what He says He will do.
Finally, the wise person is fully aware that he does not know everything. Solomon notes in Proverbs 26:16 that “[the] sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” Fools and sluggards are usually synonymous in Proverbs; therefore, it is only fools who refuse to concede that they might be ignorant about something. This ties back into the principle of humility. The wise man accepts the fact that there is always more to learn. He knows that God is always teaching him, that there will never be an end to his growth in God. He knows that his Maker is infinitely wiser and greater than him, but his delight is to search out and understand what He reveals. That is the true meaning of wisdom—humbly following God, trusting His way, and eagerly seeking to know Him more and more.