Philadelphia Church

Wisdom

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:
and with all thy getting get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7 KJV

The secular world generally defines  wisdom as the right application of knowledge. This definition is good and proper, but it begs an important question: Who or what decides what is “right”? The secular humanist will claim that whatever benefits society is what is right, and whatever fails to do so is not. At a glance, this statement may seem to clear things up, but when the premise is thoroughly examined, the same problem of definition arises. Who decides what is beneficial? Both concepts allude to a standard or law to which those who are considered wise in a society conform. The primary pursuit of mankind is to find out what that standard is and Who put it into place.

Every Christian has an answer to this age-old question. It is God who provides the standard and all throughout scripture there is one major theme that is stressed when the topic of wisdom is addressed: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth forever” (Psalm 111:10 KJV). One may hear this precept and walk away with the notion that God is a despot who uses force and terror to manipulate those who follow Him into doing what He desires. This could not be further from the truth. Anyone who has ever had a genuine encounter with the One True Living God will say just the opposite. The Psalmist, crying out to God in a time of desperation, says, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). God does not demand fear and respect by threatening to punish those who have transgressed His commandments, but rather through forgiving those who have rebelled against Him and offering them another chance at life.
 
Therefore, in order to understand true wisdom, one must learn to distinguish between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. The Apostle James, the half brother of Jesus, makes this distinction very clear. He describes the foundation of worldly wisdom to be jealousy and selfish ambition, and the fruit of such wisdom to be disorder and every evil thing (James 3:15-16). This is in stark contrast to the wisdom that comes from God. "The wisdom of God is first and foremost pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (James 3:17 NASB). Wisdom is not only defined through sound precepts, but also through the type of person that it produces.
 
Perhaps the correlation between fear and wisdom has not been made abundantly clear. A study of the Hebrew word for fear may bring some clarification. The Hebrew word for fear in Psalm 111:10 is yir’ah, and in this context, it is synonymous with reverence. When the concept of the fear of the LORD is viewed through this lens, it highlights something very important. True wisdom is founded on a reverent and intimate relationship with God and nowhere else. All other so-called wisdom is founded on something else entirely--the fear of man. Those who seek wisdom apart from God do it because of the pressure society puts on them to be good and have sound judgement. Their primary motivation is their own benefit, therefore their motives are not pure.
 
There is one portion in scripture that thoroughly summarizes true Wisdom: “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgement are mine; I have insight, I have power” (Proverbs 8:12-14 NASB). Wisdom does not merely breed a love for that which is good and holy; it breeds a deep-seeded hatred for that which is evil. There are Christians who openly acknowledge and seek after righteousness, yet fail to actively examine their hearts in an effort to find and eradicate every thought and attitude of the heart that has not been submitted to Christ. This ought not to be so. The mature Christian has learned that his heart is indeed wicked and in need of restoration and continually comes to God in prayer with the words “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see of there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). Worldly wisdom is never sufficient, and true wisdom can only be attained through seeking God relentlessly, allowing Him to reveal His righteousness while illuminating the wickedness in the human heart.
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