The Path to Wisdom

We have at our disposal today more knowledge than at any time in history. They say that more information has been produced in the last thirty years than in the previous five thousand. Today information doubles every four years. Since the advent of the Internet we have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can possibly process.

But knowledge and education is different than wisdom. What is the difference? I like this comparison: Knowledge is gathered from learning and education, while wisdom is gathered from day-to-day experiences. That means knowledge is information of which someone is aware, whereas wisdom is the ability to make correct judgments and decisions.

Our world has plenty of knowledge and education, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into wisdom. In fact, wisdom can often be learned from those who are uneducated. Take children for instance. A recent interviewer asked a group of children to give an example of wisdom. Here’s what they said:

  • Patrick, age 10, says, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
  • Michael, age 10, says, “When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.”
  • Randy, 9 years of age said, “Stay away from prunes.” One has to wonder how poor Randy discovered that bit of wisdom.
  • Eileen, age 8 says, “Never try to baptize a cat.”

So, there’s a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. The Bible has much to say about wisdom. More than any other place in the Bible, the book of Proverbs is God’s guidebook to us for how we should go about acquiring wisdom.

Let’s think about three principles, three essential steps on the path to wisdom from the book of Proverbs:

  1. Step 1: The Fear of the LORD
    1. 1.7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    2. The quest for wisdom begins with fear of the Lord. What does this mean? Here are some of the key elements:
      1. Reverence – comes from understanding God’s character. Respect for God’s “otherness”. He is holy; I am not. A major point of discussion in our country right now centers around reverence and the singing of the national anthem. But what about reverence for God? The fear of the Lord produces reverence.
      2. Submission – understanding who I am in light of who God is. Knowing that He is God and I am not.
      3. Humility – closely related. The reason we don’t like submission is because we don’t like humility. But the fear of the Lord produces a sense of humility – born from knowing who God is.
      4. Moral training
        1. In the 1950s, two doctors (one, a psychologist and, the other, a psychiatrist) shared the belief that crime was primarily the product of environment. So, they embarked on a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates in DC. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to one’s environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, they realized that crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, “wrong moral choices.” In their 1977 book, “The Criminal Personality”, they concluded that the answer to crime is a “conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle.”
        2. And the Proverbs echo somewhere in the distance: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Ultimately, the fear of the Lord produces a lifestyle of faithful obedience.
        3. Importance of training and educating our children at an early age:
          1. Deut. 6 – Shema Israel – and the practical application is that these commands are to be talked about at all times, all circumstances.
          2. Prov. 22.6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
        4. Fear of the Lord manifests itself in a life of obedience. That’s the path to wisdom.
  1. Step 2: Mentoring
    1. Remember our definition of wisdom: it is gathered from day-to-day experiences, which leads to the ability to make godly judgments and decisions. That means life is probably the best teacher. There are certain lessons I’ve learned in my 40 years that have been invaluable to me.
    2. But it also means that the younger we are, the less wisdom we have. It just stands to reason. The fewer experiences we have, the less wisdom we will possess.
    3. But that means that we need older, wiser voices to mentor and coach and teach us along the way. This morning – looked at Deborah. Much of the book of Proverbs operates in this same way.
    4. Proverbs 1-9 is written in the voice of a father talking to his son, imparting wisdom to him for godly living. Just listen to some of these verses and the mentoring / coaching / teaching that takes place:
      1. 1.8 – Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching…
      2. 2.1, 5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
      3. 3.1, 2 – My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
      4. 4.1 – Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction and be attentive that you may gain insight
      5. 4.10 – Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
      6. 4.20-21 – My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
      7. 5.1 – My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and yoru lips may guard knowledge.
      8. 5.20 – Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
    5. This is just the tip of the iceberg in Proverbs, coming from the first five chapters. I want to be that Dad that’s writing these Proverbs. Full of wisdom to impart to the young.
    6. We live in a youth-obsessed culture. Young athletes are given million dollar contracts before they ever touch the court / ball field. From hair dye to Botox to Viagra to wrinkle cream to plastic surgery, the race is on to be, as Rod Stewart sang, “Forever Young.” It’s hard to believe that some of our founding fathers powdered their wigs gray in order to appear older and wiser. Being “old” was “in” back then!
    7. But the church stands as a place where all people are valued, regardless of age, status, gender, etc.
      1. Older generation – you have a responsibility to mentor & teach
      2. Younger generation – you have a responsibility to listen & learn
      3. But we can’t accomplish these responsibilities without each other.
  1. Step 3: Discipline
    1. Nobody likes discipline. But it’s necessary. Whether you’re training dogs or raising children, discipline is necessary.
    2. We live in undisciplined, unrestrained times. For 40 years, Burger King’s slogan was “Have It Your Way” and that’s a good description of our culture. But this seems to be something that’s always plagued humanity. Throughout the book of Judges, there’s a line that comes up repeatedly: And everyone did what was right in his own eyes. With that phrase, the Bible paints a picture of an undisciplined, reckless people.
    3. To be a Christian is to live a disciplined life. Disciple is literally one who disciplines himself / herself under the teaching of another. To be a disciple of Jesus is to subject yourself to his instruction, his leadership.
    4. He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. – Prov. 10.17
      1. Simon Peter – Seems predisposed to be able to withstand the Lord’s discipline. Matt. 16, Confesses Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. The very next episode, he receives the rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” Needed to be disciplined, corrected. That’s not harsh – in fact, Simon Peter would say, “I’m glad the Lord loved me enough to discipline me!”
      2. Some could be said of Paul – on the road to Damascus, the Lord gets his attention. Disciplines him, but graciously re-directs him to become an evangelist.
    5. James Packer, “The opposite of wisdom is folly, meaning the short-term self-indulgence which marks out the person who doesn’t think about long-term priorities…but lives on a day-to-day basis asking, ‘What is the most fun thing to do now?’”
    6. The disciplined life asks a fundamentally different question: “What can I do for the Kingdom of God right now?”
    7. 3.11, My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him who he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
    8. 6.22-23, The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.


This entry was posted in Culture, Devotional, Faith, Proverbs, Scripture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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