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Biblical Wisdom Defined

Aug 1, 2008
We often think of wisdom in the abstract -- as if it represents a human philosophy, constructed by the hands of men, with only a theoretical application to everyday life. But according to scripture, wisdom pre-existed the creation of the world and comes from the heart of God. (Jeremiah 10:12) For us, therefore, living wisely means that we are living in harmony with the character of God.

Wisdom is often thought of as a product of the intellect. If we can only come to know enough, we are told, then we will become wise. But often mere intellect is cleverness without compass. God did not call us to love Him only with our minds; He also said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) To know God based solely on intellect leads to futility because the mind can analyze and compute, but it cannot love. If we think of God only as an aspect of our theology, we are already in opposition to God's greatest commandment. God commanded us to love Him; He did not command us to think about loving Him. "The reason people disbelieve God is not because they do not understand with their heads - we understand very few things with our heads - but because they have turned their hearts in another direction." (Oswald Chambers, Biblical Psychology, p. 129) Man's pride may be seated in his intellectual prowess, but his righteousness grows out of a true and faithful heart.

If wisdom comes from God, then our desire to engage in foolish and self-destructive behavior may have its origin in our own pride and disbelief. The Bible explicitly says that "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1) Once a man pushes God aside, our rebellious nature has free rein to grow and prosper within his heart. Without God's strong and steady presence, men are blown back and forth by every temptation and the inevitable descent follows: "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:15)

As with Christ, the wise person embodies the values of prudence, knowledge and discretion. He is humble in all things and he chooses his words with care because he knows that words are powerful and, when used carelessly, can wound. The wise person is sought out by others because he exhibits sound and fair judgment. Most importantly, love is at the very center of who he is. He is patient and kind. He neither envies nor boasts. He is not proud or rude. The wise person is not self-seeking, is not easily angered and does not keep a record of wrongs. He takes no delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The Bible clearly defines the one and only place where wisdom can be found: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Psalm 111:10) The well-spent life built on a foundation of heart-centered discernment begins with the Lord; we are told to store up his commands, guard his teachings and "write them on the tablet of your heart." (Proverbs 3:3-4)
About the Author
Eric Kampmann received an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a graduate degree in English at Stony Brook. Eric is the author of two other books: Tree of Life (2003) and The Book Publisher's Handbook (2007). For information on his newest book, Trail Thoughts, visit: Trail Thoughts.
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