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Who Is Wise?

By Jerry Moffitt

religion, articles, christianity

All things that pass are wisdom's looking-glass.

Wisdom is tantalizing—everyone wants it but few are willing to pay the price of getting it.

[I]f any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

James says God gives wisdom liberally. He does not say how God gives it, at least not in this passage. Some assume he does it in a mysterious way, but these verses justify no such assumption.

Bread and wisdom come from human reaction to divine provision. For example, Jesus taught the disciples to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread"

(Matt. 6:11). What happens? The farmer plows the field, sows the seed, reaps the crop, grinds the grain, and his wife bakes it. In this way God gives him his daily bread.

Jacob vowed, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on" (Gen. 28 :20). Did Jacob have to work for his food and shelter? He said to his father-in- law, "Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from mine eyes" (Gen. 31:40).

Of Naomi it is said, "Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that Jehovah had visited his people in giving them bread" (Ruth 1:6). Did the food drop out of heaven? God gave bread to Naomi and the lovely Ruth when Ruth gleaned grain in the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:3).

David said:

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enriches it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou prepares them corn, when thou has so provided it; ... The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn, they shout for joy, they also sing (Psa. 65:9,13).

God usually gives bread through seed, sunshine, rain, and fertile soil, and not by miracle. Humans must plow, sow, reap, grind, and bake to get each day's supply of bread. Still, our daily bread is God-given.

Is wisdom the same? It is made available by God in providential ways, much past tracing out, but requiring study and an engagement of the mind. Notice: Solomon said he wrote the book of Proverbs so that one would be able "to know wisdom and instruction; to discern the words of understanding; To receive instruction in wise dealing" (Prov. 1:2-3).

Wisdom personified says, "Turn you at my reproof: Behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you" (Prov. 1:23).

Wisdom says again, "But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof" (Prov. 1:25). Gaining wisdom is not a mysterious working on the human mind, but is an understandable working of the human mind. It comes by effort and not by a personal, direct. and independent act of God. It is something that is known. It contains words, counsel, and reproof.

Wisdom says, "But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell securely" (Prov. 1:33). Wisdom does not come supernaturally but naturally — by hearkening — by lending an ear.

Solomon says:

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee; So as to incline shine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding.... Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God. For Jehovah giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:1-6).

God gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding but the receiver must incline an ear and apply the heart.

In speaking of wisdom, the Bible uses such words as knowledge, listening, reproof, counsel, and commandments.

God gave Solomon unparalleled wisdom.

How did he give it?

In Ecclesiastes Solomon said, "And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly" (Eccl. 1:17).

In finding wisdom he used also observation and application of his mind. He said, "All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun" (Eccl. 8:9).

Again he said "When I applied mine heart to know wisdom" (Eccl. 8:16). He prayed for an understanding (hearing) heart so he could discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9).

Paul said "But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Heb. 5:12-14). This verse shows use of the Word of God to discern good and evil. Wisdom comes from "senses exercised to discern" what is right.

Here are two men. One prays for wisdom but does nothing to get it. The other prays for wisdom and studies, thinks, and acts on what he knows to be right. Which of the two, think ye, will have wisdom?

The same Bible writer who tells us to pray for wisdom also says, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13).

Ponder that, if you would know how wisdom comes.

Published October 1996