How to Become Wise
How to Become Wise
Oprah Winfrey says, ‘Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.’ In other words, wisdom comes from within and is a kind of intuition. Since you are created in the image of God, there is truth in this. However, as we see in today’s passages, true wisdom comes from God and it is supremely acquired through your relationship with him. As we have seen, knowledge is horizontal. But wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. You will grow in wisdom as you learn, reflect and live in relationship with God.
We all desperately need wisdom. In the Old Testament there are several books of ‘Wisdom’: Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. In addition, sprinkled throughout the Bible are various writings which might loosely be described as ‘Wisdom Literature’, dealing with such diverse areas as the power of the tongue, the blessings of faithfulness, the dangers of adultery, the hazards of strong drink, the inequalities of life, the sufferings of the righteous, the skill of leadership and the art of parenting.
This wisdom is a kind of sanctified common sense. It leads to greater self-understanding. It gives you the ability to cope in life and to steer through and master its challenges. It is the sort of legacy good parents want to hand on to their children. Ultimately, wisdom is found in Jesus Christ, who is the ‘wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Seek wisdom from GodProverbs 8:12-21
Wisdom is immensely valuable: ‘My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus’ (vv.18–19, MSG). This wisdom is worth more than all the material wealth in the world. Apart from anything else, unlike material wealth, it lasts forever (v.18).
In this passage, we see why wisdom is so valuable and how we should seek God for such wisdom:
- Wisdom comes from God
Wisdom begins with a relationship with God. It starts with the ‘fear of the Lord’ (v.13). ‘Fear’ means ‘respect’ and a deep awareness of God that is the foundation of all wisdom.
- Wisdom is pure and beautiful
The writer of Proverbs says, ‘To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech... I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice’ (vv.13,20). This is the test of true wisdom that comes from God. As the apostle James writes, ‘Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ (James 3:17).
- Wisdom helps you lead well
Wisdom is of particular importance for leaders. If you want to be a good leader you need wisdom and common sense: ‘With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority’ (Proverbs 8:15–16, MSG).
- Wisdom is available to you
God promises wisdom to all who seek after it: ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me’ (v.17). As the apostle James puts it, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5). This is a prayer you can be sure will be answered.
Lord, I desperately need your wisdom today. Please give me wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
See people with wise eyesLuke 7:36-50
Have you ever made a misjudgement about somebody based only on outward appearances?
In today’s passage we see a woman with a past, who sold her love by the hour as the town prostitute, washing Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing them and pouring perfume on them. The Pharisee’s reaction was the natural one: ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner’ (7:39).
But Jesus, ‘filled with wisdom’ (2:40) right from his earliest days, could see beneath the surface. He saw the fact that the woman was expressing her immense love for him because she knew how much she had been forgiven. You may have had a negative past but you can have a positive and blessed future.
We see the wisdom of Jesus both in his insight into people and in the way he chose to teach. He tells a parable about an eccentric bank manager. He has two customers. One owes £5,000, another £50,000. He lets both of them off completely. No human bank manager is likely to act like that. But that is exactly what Jesus’ love is like. All your sins are wiped out. You receive total forgiveness. The greater the debt, the more grateful you will be and the greater your love for Jesus.
This parable enabled Simon the Pharisee, unwittingly, to answer his own concern (7:43). Jesus wisely and gently points out that Simon had not given him a very warm welcome, nor shown a great deal of love. Simon’s problem was that he didn’t realise how much he needed forgiveness.
On the other hand, the woman loved Jesus much because she knew she had been forgiven much (v.47). She was willing to risk rejection and give of herself practically, emotionally and financially.
She wept so much that she ‘wet his feet with her tears’ (v.38). In order to wipe his feet, she let her hair down in public (something regarded as shameful). She was in the grip of her emotions and oblivious to what others thought. She did not stop kissing his feet out of deep reverence.
Then she poured rare and expensive perfume (normally reserved for the head) on his feet. She loved Jesus with all of her heart. Jesus sees your heart, rather than your past. He said to her, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (v.50). Your love is a result of your faith. As the apostle Paul wrote, ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love’ (Galatians 5:6).
You may not have had a good beginning in life but this does not mean you cannot have a great finish. Whatever your past life was like, with Jesus you can make a completely new start and have a great future. You do not need to go around burdened by guilt – from previous relationships or from incidents in your past. The moment you repent and put your faith in Jesus, all your sins are wiped out. It is important that what you know in your head drops to your heart.
Jesus wants you to acknowledge that you are a sinner. You can’t pay off your debts. But Jesus forgives you. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you today with an overflowing love for God and love for others.
Lord, give me wisdom like Jesus not to judge by outward appearances but to see the heart. Fill me with the Holy Spirit today. May I overflow with love for you and for others.
Show wisdom in practical decisionsNumbers 26:12-27:11
Moses shows very practical wisdom, allotting the size of land according to the size of the group (26:54).
Sadly, not everyone was as wise as Moses. When they were in the desert they rebelled and grumbled against God. As a result, God said that they would not enter the promised land. This is exactly what happened. Of those counted in the desert of Sinai, ‘not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun’ (vv.64–65).
There is an old ditty that goes:
Joshua, the son of Nun
The son of Jephunneh
Were the only two
Who ever got through
To the land of milk and honey.
Zelophehad’s daughters also showed great wisdom in being courageous and speaking out. They stood up for women’s rights (27:1–11). Had these women not done so, the results might have been very different. They were right to have the courage to speak out.
Moses dealt with the situation with great wisdom. He did not simply follow the customs of his day; he was remarkably open-minded. He had the wisdom not to make a hasty decision in his own strength, or automatically equate God’s will with ancient custom.
Yet the heart of Moses’ wisdom lay in his recognition that true wisdom comes from God. Again and again, Moses brought the problems and challenges of the people to God. He sought God’s help and guidance, and it was this that made him wise.
Lord, I need your wisdom for all the decisions I have to make each day. Help me not just to look within at my own instincts but to seek your wisdom that comes from above, to follow the example of Jesus’ wisdom and to be guided by the Holy Spirit, who gives me wisdom in my heart.
It is so easy to judge. I remember being on the London Underground with my daughter when she was very small. As we went through the barrier I saw a young woman arguing with the inspector and I made a judgment.
Meanwhile, I had taken my daughter out of the buggy to get on the escalator going down (as you are required to) and the woman had gone ahead of us. My daughter was standing on the step below me and she fell. I had the buggy and bags in my hands and I couldn’t catch her. To my horror I could see the bottom looming and I was convinced she would get caught in the mechanism.
There were other people around but it was this woman who turned, ran and scooped up my child just before she reached the bottom, and handed her safely back to me. I felt deeply repentant of my attitude towards this woman and very grateful to her – and to God for his provision of this kind stranger.
Verse of the Day
‘I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me’ (Proverbs 8:17).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.