Wisdom . . . It Sounds Great, But What Exactly Is It?

As we’re taking a look at the book of Proverbs, our goal is to grow in wisdom. But what exactly are we talking about when we talk about wisdom? It’s pretty easy to have an implicit idea of the gist of the word, but if I asked you to give me a biblical definition of wisdom, could you do it?

Let’s start with what is isn’t: wisdom is not just being intelligent. When the Bible talks about wisdom, it isn’t talking about knowing a lot of stuff. Knowledge is important, and it is related, but it isn’t the same thing as wisdom.

You may have heard it said that being smart means you have a lot of information, but being wise means you know what to do with it, and you actually do it.

There’s a lot of truth in that definition. But the Bible clarifies that true wisdom has to do with moral and spiritual knowledge. It’s about knowing God and his world well enough to live a successful life based on how God intends things to work.

To put it more simply, biblical wisdom means knowing God’s design for how His creation works, and living rightly in light of that design.

That’s why “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). True wisdom comes from a right relationship with God.

Listen to this definition from Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe:

“The wise person believes that there is a God, that He is the Creator and Ruler of all things, and that He has put within His creation a divine order that, if obeyed, leads ultimately to success. Wise people also assert that there is a moral law operating in this world, a principle of divine justice that makes sure that eventually the wicked are judged and the righteous are rewarded. Biblical wisdom has little if any relationship to a person’s IQ or education, because it is a matter of moral and spiritual understanding. It has to do with character and values; it means looking at the world through the grid of God’s truth” (Be Skillful, 17).

Notice some key aspects of this definition:

  • Wisdom comes from believing the right things — about God, about morality, and about the way God intends humans to live.
  • Wisdom involves obeying God’s moral will.
  • Wisdom involves recognizing that God will, sooner or later, hold us all accountable for the way we live and the choices we make.[1] Your decisions have consequences.
  • Wisdom is about viewing the whole world — all of life — through the grid of God’s truth. Godly wisdom touches upon every aspect of life; it doesn’t take time off (see Ecclesiastes 10:1).
  • Though we need right information about God’s world, wisdom is far more about character and values than merely information.

Putting all this together, we might say that wisdom is right belief translated into right actions. Or, to paraphrase from one of my seminary professors, Larry Waters: wisdom is “heavenly perspective with earthly application.”

Wiersbe points out why this understanding of biblical wisdom is so important, and so much more valuable than mere intelligence:

“The pages of history are filled with the names of brilliant and gifted people who were smart enough to become rich and famous but not wise enough to make a successful and satisfying life. Before his death, one of the world’s richest men said that he would have given all his wealth to make one of his six marriages succeed. It’s one thing to make a living, but quite something else to make a life” (Be Skillful, 18).

I love that last line in Wiersbe’s quote. Wisdom from God is for the purpose of making a life, not just making a living.

When we begin to apply the book of Proverbs and live with God’s perspective on things, even the daily grind of making a living in our modern world can become a life of meaning and significance as we submit our values and decisions to God’s wisdom.

Be sure and check back later this week for my next post, where we’ll see what Proverbs says about how we can gain more wisdom. And as a side note, if you haven’t yet, you should totally click that “Keep Me Posted” button on the right sidebar so you won’t miss a post! It would be a . . . wise choice! 😀

See you down the path.


[1] Proverbs will frequently, but not exclusively, depict God’s affirmation or condemnation as occurring in this lifetime — either through success or disaster. However, Proverbs also fits into the larger biblical picture that ultimately all accounts will be settled after death, when God judges each person “according to their conduct” (Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 20:12-13).



Categories: Bible study

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4 replies

  1. The beginning of wisdom..You have articulated this well.I love it! ❤

    Like

  2. Derek you articulatwd this very well.I I wish i could put it on paper was well as you do. It gives me a deeper understanding of Gods wisdom. Espicially because I am always asking God for His Godly wisdom. My favorite is Proverbs9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. I think they go hand in hand. what say you?

    Like

  3. The beginning of wisdom..You have articulated this well.I love it! ❤

    Like

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  1. What Does It Mean to “Fear the Lord”? – Theology Pathfinder

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