God’s wisdom is different from the wisdom of the world. Taking notice of the strategies for conquering Jericho, crossing the Red Sea, or Gideon winning the battle against the Midianites is sufficient to make the point. If one were making a decision as anyone else in the world would, one would weigh the pros and cons, find various pithy sayings or aphorisms (such as “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!”) to support one’s feelings, and make the decision as best as one could. But finding God’s wisdom in a situation can be very different from that.
In addition, many Christians use Scripture to guide them when they are making decisions, but that can also be a false strategy. While God does speak to us in Scripture, it is not and never was intended to be a crystal ball sort of tool to guide us on our way. Scripture is primarily a revelation of God. A simple reading of the temptation scene of Jesus is sufficient to warn us that Scripture can be misused to misguide. Many years ago a youth pastor friend of mine was in a serious toboggan accident and was fatally injured. Through the night the church prayed diligently for his life, and his pastor father came across a Scripture assuring him that his son would live. Early the next morning his son passed away. We must be very, very careful when we use Scripture to make a decision for us or to confirm what it is that we want to see happen. Finding God’s wisdom in a situation can be very different from that.
Often we just want God to give us an answer—to make the decision for us. We are so anxious for that to happen, but BE CAREFUL. We don’t GET wisdom, we GROW in it. It’s a slow and uncertain process. Even when we think we are getting an answer to our prayers, we must proceed carefully and with discernment. Even when we think God has spoken to us through Scripture, we must check and double-check and pray and talk and pray and read more. We must be ever-seeking, ever-discerning.
So how do we make decisions with wisdom?
1. Of course we weigh pros and cons. We’re rational people. Faith is not blind.
2. We pray like mad.
3. We read Scripture so God might speak to us.
4. We weigh in with Scriptural values, godly priorities, and what is moral and good.
5. We reflect on what we have learned from our experiences that affect what we’re trying to decide.
6. Pray some more
7. Make the wisest decision we can
8. Pray some more
We wonder how someone as wise a s Solomon could make such a disaster of his life. After all, in 1 Kings 3.5-14, the Lord gave Solomon great wisdom as a gift. We think, upon reading this, that Sol would have been wise enough to not make the mistakes he did in compromising his faith with his many wives.
Our understanding of this comes in discerning the difference between the wisdom to govern his people (which is what Solomon asked for, 1 Ki. 3.7-9) and the wisdom of godliness (of which Sol is aware and has some experience in, Prov. 1.2-7). You see, there’s a vast difference between being wise in the ways of the world and the policies of government, which was Sol’s gift from the Lord, and being wise in the fear of the Lord, seeking his with a godly and humble heart. That is NOT what Solomon had requested, and we find out that his great wisdom doesn’t lead him there. Intelligence and the discernment to govern never automatically lead to godliness. They don’t negate it, either. We just discover that the two are separate realities, and can, but don’t necessarily, coincide.
One of the tragedies of Solomon’s life was that despite his great wisdom to govern, and despite his access to the heart of his father, David, who had a heart after God’s own heart, he still make life choices that were contrary to God’s kingdom and God’s will, and he made a ruin of his personal and spiritual life, and ended up making a ruin of his own future kingdom as well.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but what is the end of wisdom? It’s the lifelong pursuit of God, God’s will, and God’s kingdom. Look at what Proverbs has taught us:
1. Business ethics: always run your business fairly. Don’t cheat people or deal with them dishonestly. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with making money, but make your money honestly.
2. Hard work, not laziness, is the course to pursue. Do your fair share and then some.
3. We value relationships that build up, not break down. Breaking down other people is easy, and it’s part of our culture. There are lots of things to complain about, and people are always doing something that makes it hard to keep being trustworthy friends. Be the person who builds up, not the one who breaks down.
4. Honesty. Tell the truth, be the truth, live the truth.
5. Self-control. Your heart and your desires easily mislead. Just because it comes naturally and easily to you doesn’t mean you should do it. Instead, control all your human instincts and natural tendencies, and also control your journey Godward. The path is narrow.
6. Respect for authority, especially parents. God created and endorses systems of authority that bring godly values to life. We obey and submit to them because in doing that we learn to obey and submit to God whom we can’t see.
7. Justice. Pursue justice for all, in business practices and policies, political structures and laws, economic policies, and judiciary practices. If we can’t figure out how to be just in ALL of these areas, society is doomed.
8. A proper perspective of money: get it properly and use it expediently.
9. Integrity. In all things be a person of integrity—at home, at work, and even when no one is watching (become some is always watching).