This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comment section on the blog.
MAKE WISDOM THE PRIORITY
In Proverbs 4:7 the exhortation is “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” If wisdom is the “principle thing,” it is the first thing, the head of all things, the root of all things, and really the only thing worth getting.
Better to have wisdom than any other thing!
Money is good—we need money to live in the world, but money without wisdom is a very bad thing. We need wisdom to know how to use money in a way that glorifies God. We need wisdom in our spending and in our saving of money. We need wisdom in our giving of money—without wisdom, our money will do us no good, and it may do us and others much harm.
Relationships are good—it is good, for example, for a Christian to marry, but marriage without wisdom is a very bad thing. We need wisdom to know whom we should marry, and how to live in marriage (or singleness) to the glory of God. Wisdom will make us realistic and prudent in our expectations of marriage, but foolishness will make us idealistic and unreasonable—our head will be in the clouds and not on the earth. Folly will ruin us and other people around us.
Notice how Solomon emphasizes wisdom in Proverbs 4:7—“Get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” Short, pithy, poetic exhortations drive the point into our heart. Prioritize wisdom in your life and teach your children by word and example to prioritize wisdom in their lives. Do not prioritize education, success, sporting achievement, musical talent, money, or any other thing. Prioritize wisdom and you will adapt education, success, sporting achievement, musical talent, money, or every other thing to the great goal of the glory of God.
From this exhortation in Proverbs 4:7 we learn a few things.
First, the obtaining of and walking in wisdom is not natural to us. Wisdom is contrary to our nature as sinners. The more contrary a duty is to our nature, the more earnest, urgent, sharp, and pointed must be the exhortation.
Second, the obtaining of and walking in wisdom requires our best and most strenuous efforts. The verb “get” means to obtain, acquire and even to buy. In Proverbs 2, Solomon commands his son to “incline his ear” to wisdom, to “apply his heart,” to “seek for,” and “to search for” wisdom. This is no halfhearted quest for wisdom—put your heart and soul into it!
Many make a great effort to make money, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle or a good standard of living, to find a good career, to court popularity, or even to pursue pleasure, but they do not pursue wisdom. Wisdom does not come to us without effort on our part—an effort to cast away folly; an effort to deny ourselves; an effort to study and learn; an effort to learn from others; an effort to pray. But wisdom is worth getting.
HOW TO “GET” WISDOM
Since wisdom is not the same as knowledge, you cannot get wisdom from books alone. A person might read many theological books, but be seriously deficient in wisdom—I cannot emphasize this enough: wisdom is the right use, application, and adaptation of knowledge!
The source of wisdom is God. God is the only wise God, the Son of God is the wisdom of God, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of wisdom. We, therefore, receive wisdom through the grace of God. Every Christian has the beginning of wisdom in his heart, because every Christian is regenerate. Every Christian enjoys salvation in the cross of Christ. Nevertheless, wisdom must be learned, and we are required to grow in wisdom. When Solomon writes, “Get wisdom,” he is writing to the people of God. They are wise, but they need to keep getting wiser!
The first means by which God gives us wisdom is the hearing of the word of God, especially the preaching of the gospel in a true church. As we listen to the preaching, we must do two things: we must seek to grow in knowledge, and (this is crucial) we must seek the ability wisely to use, apply, and adapt the truth. A head full of sermons with no application will not make you wise.
The second means by which God gives wisdom is prayer. When we are perplexed and do not know the wise course of action we need to pray. The foolish man does not pray—he already thinks he knows the answer, so he seeks confirmation of his own preconceived notions and ideas. James addresses this: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:5–7).
The third means by which God gives wisdom is godly counsel. Christians who grow up in a godly home have a tremendous advantage here. They have (or should have) wise parents and grandparents. One of the characteristics of the fool is contempt for his parents. In addition, the believer who seeks wisdom should ask older, wiser, and more experienced members of the church for advice and follow it if it is godly counsel. One of the characteristics of the fool is disdain for godly counsel, or, worse, he pretends to ask for godly advice, but he has no intention of following it. He wants to be affirmed, not advised.
Wisdom is no man’s debtor. The fool has many regrets, but the wise man experiences many blessings. The book of Proverbs is filled with incentives to be wise. Consider, for example Proverbs 4:8–9, “Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”
Wisdom shall promote and exalt you—not in the world, but in the world to come. Wisdom will be of great advantage to you in this world also, for it will help you avoid the many mistakes of the fool. Wisdom shall beautify you.
Would you have honor? Would you have blessing? Would you avoid misery? Then forsake every foolish way of sin, and acquire wisdom and understanding. Then you will have the spiritual discernment to apply the truth of God to every aspect of your life.
“The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools” (Prov. 3:35).