Wisdom along with an inheritance is good, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge (wisdom) is that wisdom keeps its possessors alive– Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 NASB
Wisdom and folly. Those two subjects are the heart of the Book of Proverbs.
We all get folly.
Folly is easy.
Folly is stupidity and learned lunacy. Folly is making the decision to do the wrong thing because the wrong thing feels pleasant or appears to be advantageous, easy or expedient in the moment. Folly is making the choice to ignore the obvious, and then whining about the results of ignoring the obvious. Folly is rebelling against common sense or acknowledged facts in favor of feelings.
Folly is not a difficult concept to grasp (Ecclesiastes 10:3).
Wisdom is more complicated and much harder to nail down, largely because wisdom is way more nuanced (Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 3:19). Some of the best practical definitions of wisdom are:
Thinking God’s thoughts after Him-
The sum of all learning and knowledge-
Common sense, good judgment-
The ability to apply knowledge appropriately to a given situation-
But, by far, my all-time favorite practical definition of wisdom is…
Understanding the connectedness of life-
Wisdom is understanding every single action in life produces a reaction or consequence. It’s accepting the reality that the reaction or consequence is not always equal to or observably related to the action (Hosea 8:7). Wisdom is understanding the seemingly unconnected things in life really are connected. Wisdom is knowing anxiety is not a freak event or strictly a biological occurrence. It’s the direct result of something else: an unfinished project, a lie we told, control issues or a conversation we’re scared to have. Wisdom is recognizing the link between pride and abject failure in our relationships and work (Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 11:2). Wisdom is understanding how I live today will impact tomorrow, sometimes in seemingly unconnected ways (Proverbs 20:25). Wisdom is knowing how I choose to manage my sexuality has the power to dramatically impact not only my marriage but also my finances, friendships, parenting outcome and reputation (Proverbs 5:1-14). Wisdom is knowing sin in one area of my life will inevitably impact productivity and blessings in other areas of my life (Proverbs 5:21-23).
Wise people understand nothing happens in a vacuum and everything is LITERALLY connected to everything else. There are no choices in life that are disconnected from our other choices. Wise people grasp the sad fact that we get to choose the sin but we don’t get to choose the consequences of the sin (Proverbs 1:31).
Thankfully, one need not be smart or clever to be wise (Proverbs 17:28). Even dumb people can be wise. That being said, no one, no matter their I.Q. gets wisdom, unless they go after it (James 1:5, Proverbs 1:20-23). There are five primary ways we acquire wisdom, including:
Obeying the precepts found in the Bible-
The Bible defines wisdom and foolishness very clearly in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1-4). However, there is more wisdom in the Bible than what’s found in Proverbs. The Bible teaches through stories, psalms and commands what will happen when a person chooses to act wisely and what happens when a person chooses to behave foolishly. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, a wise life begins with making a commitment to Jesus (Proverbs 14:2). Once the commitment is made a person should seek to learn the Bible and apply it their life. Obedience to God produces an abundance of wisdom. Every. Single. Time.
Reflection about life-
Some assume simply living life and attaining an education will make them wise. This is categorically wrong. There are lots of really foolish old people and the world is abounding with educated idiots. Self-reflection is a key to wisdom. We become wise and insightful when we take the time to honestly contemplate which actions led to our successes and failures (Proverbs 4:26, 2nd Corinthians 13:5, Ecclesiastes 12:9). When we choose to think through what we did right or wrong in situations and then take responsibility for those actions and adjust our behavior accordingly next time wisdom becomes a natural part of who we are as people.
It’s critical we know God isn’t just wise and knowledgeable. God IS wisdom. God IS knowledge. God is THE source of all understanding about all things (Proverbs 3:19-20). Praying to the source of wisdom and knowledge does two things: first, prayer allows clueless humans to ASK God for wisdom about life. A prayer for wisdom is God’s favorite kind of prayer. He is always ready to give wisdom to anyone eager to ask for it (James 1:5). However, prayer is not just about asking God for stuff. Prayer is primarily about connecting with and communing with God. We become like those we spend the most time with. Therefore, if we make connecting with the all-wise, all-knowing, totally-holy maker of the universe a priority in our lives we will become wise just as He is wise (Hosea 14:9, Proverbs 13:20).
From other people-
God graciously blesses those who seek wisdom with wisdom and then places those people in our lives as a gift (Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 13:14). It is our responsibility to identify the wise people God places in our path and learn from them. As with any gift we can refuse the wisdom others have to offer but we do so at our own peril.
No one can acquire wisdom without humility. Period. It literally cannot happen. In order to acquire wisdom we must understand and accept the inherent limitedness of our own personal wisdom. Wisdom means conceding that sometimes we get it wrong and most of the time we don’t know what we don’t know. Wisdom is all about having a realistic perspective of ourselves and humbly asking God to give us the insight, wisdom and understanding we lack.
Then we are unstoppable in every good thing God calls us to (Proverbs, 9:12 Proverbs 21:22).