What Is Wisdom? (and How to Get It)
The answer to the question, “what is wisdom” seems, at first hearing, to demand a rather simple answer. One could say, “Wisdom is the appropriate application of knowledge,” and that is so. But upon reviewing wisdom in the Bible, this invaluable virtue is deep, immeasurable, priceless, and rare. It is like saying, “Jesus is the Redeemer.” That is true, yet our Redeemer is infinitely more.
The Lord offers wisdom freely; however, most don’t bother to ask and, therefore, receive. Wisdom is a plenteous crop with a meager harvest. Wisdom personified cries out in the street, “I am here! I bring great blessings!" Thus, the Proverb:
Proverbs 1:20-22 (ESV): Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
But busy pedestrians walk briskly by, perhaps only glancing in contempt at its peculiar place. A busy man late for an appointment is put off by her offer. “My word, what an embarrassment! She is not a beggar but is annoyingly worse: she offers her treasures to any who will pause and ask. How ludicrous. Get out of my way! I am late!” Others ignore her. Some even avoid her. She holds wealth, happiness, and abundant life. But the sweet voice with her kind offer is drowned out by the urgent noises of practicality and utility and self-reliance.
True wisdom, like God’s grace, is alien to the natural man.
Wisdom is, in fact, a divine gift that is granted by God whenever any believer asks. This is the clear teaching of James:
James 1:5 (ESV): If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Yet, how many ask? How many pray? Solomon asked for wisdom and it is this prayer that unlocked the riches of the world. We read in 1 Kings 3:8-13 (ESV):
“And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor.”
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) tells us,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
In this is the answer to the second part of the question: "how does one acquire wisdom?" The biblical answer is found in all of the Scriptures that we have cited and many more. We can survey all of the pool of biblical insights about wisdom and siphon the precious nectar of truth about how to get wisdom:
1. Recognize that true wisdom is something that we need. Like grace, wisdom is something God offers and which we must receive. It is a gift.
2. Repent of your claim on wisdom. Turn to God. By faith, believe in God and in his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Ask him for wisdom.
3. Receive the anointing of wisdom even as Joshua received wisdom after Moses laid his hand upon him. Recognize that wisdom is a spiritual act. It has very little to do with cognitive development or education. It has everything to do with the anointing of God to see what is right and what is wrong, to know what to do and when to do it. You and I both know that wisdom does not come along with a sheepskin of a diploma or certification. Cry out to God, and he will answer you and anoint you with wisdom.
4. Use wisdom for the glory of God and for the good of others. If wisdom is not exercised then wisdom ceases to be. However, the very nature of wisdom instructs your heart to use your insights, your discernment, your discretion, your vision to fulfill God's will and to demonstrate how to love your neighbor.
Yes, wisdom is a bountiful blessing that is available to all. You have only to go to the Lord God and ask for this wisdom. As Paul prayed that the Colossians be granted wisdom, so I pray for those who read this:
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV).
Let us always remember that Jesus is the fullness of God's wisdom. To receive the anointing of wisdom, then, is, in some way, to know the mind of God and to draw close to the one who is wisdom incarnate, even Jesus Christ our Lord:
“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a [c]stumbling block and to the [d]Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24 NKJV).
Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. And to receive him is to recognize your need of him and cry out to him. God will answer your prayer. So, this is wisdom and how to find it.
Michael A. Milton, PhD (University of Wales; MPA, UNC Chapel Hill; MDiv, Knox Seminary), Dr. Milton is a retired seminary chancellor and currently serves as the James Ragsdale Chair of Missions at Erskine Theological Seminary. He is the President of Faith for Living and the D. James Kennedy Institute a long-time Presbyterian minister, and Chaplain (Colonel) USA-R. Dr. Milton is the author of more than thirty books and a musician with five albums released. Mike and his wife, Mae, reside in North Carolina.
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