Prov. 1.1-2: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight…”

When we say someone is “wise,” we usually mean that he or she seems to understand how things really work, and when decisions need to be made, they seem to know what to do. Sure enough, that’s what the Bible says too. I figure that’s what we’d all like to be like: to understand how things work, and to know what to do when a decision has to be made. We like to think we have things figured out, and that we understand the important questions of life, and to know how to use our knowledge and discernment in real life and in practical matters.

The Bible, of course, talks about wisdom. Wise is what God is. God is love, truth, and holiness; he is also wisdom. In fact, the Bible says that in God alone can wisdom be found in its fullness (Rom. 16.27). Sure, there’s plenty of wisdom to be had in this world, but if you want the full package, you have to step beyond human knowledge and learning, because it’s more than just information, more than just reading a lot of books, and it’s certainly more than just experience. (You can have the same experience multiple times and never learn from it.)

So where does such wisdom come from, and how do we get it? I’ve learned that for the most part the road to wisdom comes through hard times. Very little wisdom comes from success and through things going smoothly and well. When things are going well, we kick back and take a moment of respite. We learn mostly only when we’re forced to learn, when we’re thrown out of balance, or when things don’t make sense and we’re challenged to figure out why and to push through it. For those who will stay on track and actually learn something from it, they slowly attain wisdom.

And notice I said (as the text does), attain. “Attain” implies that you work for something to get it; there’s a price to pay to arrive. We certainly don’t get wisdom by having it dumped on us. Wisdom is attained by a sluggish, tedious trek through good and miserable experiences, through suffering and confusion, until we slowly learn how the world works and how to make good decisions. People think, from James 1.5, that you can pray for wisdom and God will just back up the truck and unload it on you in answer to your prayers. But nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re going to read James 1.5 and seize on it as a promise, you also have to read James 1.2-4 and seize on it as the truth that leads to v. 5. God gives us wisdom over a long period of time as we learn in humility and faith. Sure, we can ask God for it, but we also seek it in the pages of Scripture, learn from other people (wise counselors), and by processing our experiences through the filter of faith.

So let me know what you think. Feel free to comment, or raise a topic in the Q&A Forum.

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