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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Wisdom

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One of God’s desires for humankind is that people learn and develop practical wisdom, so that they might live intelligently and honestly. In this way their lives will be useful, bringing pleasure to God and benefits to themselves and others (Proverbs 1:2-7; Proverbs 2:7-11; Ephesians 5:15-16).

Practical and God-centred

The wisdom that the Bible encourages is concerned with the practical affairs of everyday living rather than with philosophical theories. People live in a real world and have to deal with real people (Deuteronomy 1:13-15; Deuteronomy 34:9; 1 Kings 3:9; Acts 6:3; Acts 7:10). The basis of that wisdom, however, is not human cleverness but obedient reverence for God. God is the source of true wisdom and he gives it to those who seek it (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 9:10; Daniel 2:20; Romans 16:27; 1 Corinthians 1:30; James 1:5-8).

Without such reverence, wisdom may be selfish and worldly, characterized by ungodly attitudes such as jealousy and deceit. Godly wisdom, by contrast, is characterized by humility, uprightness and a concern for others (Proverbs 8:12-16; Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 11:2; Isaiah 5:21; James 3:13-18).

This godly wisdom is available to all who are prepared to leave the folly of their self-centred ways and accept it from God (Proverbs 1:20-23; Proverbs 8:1-6; Proverbs 9:1-6). It will enable them to overcome the temptations of life (Proverbs 6:23-27). But if they refuse it, they will inevitably bring upon themselves disappointment, shame and despair (Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 1:24-26; Proverbs 5:11-13; Proverbs 7:1-23; Ecclesiastes 10:1-3).

In Old Testament times the chief teachers of this practical wisdom were people known as ‘the wise’ (Jeremiah 18:18). Though different from priests and prophets, these teachers of wisdom were godly men who sought to persuade people by giving practical advice based on experience (1 Kings 4:30-31; Proverbs 25:1; Proverbs 31:1; Ecclesiastes 12:9-10).

The wisdom teachers knew that the average person had enough common sense to recognize the wisdom of the instruction. Sometimes they taught by means of short, easily remembered statements such as those collected in the biblical book of Proverbs. Other times they taught by arguments and debates, such as those recorded in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes and in certain psalms. (For details see WISDOM LITERATURE.)

However, the wisdom teachers never forgot that true wisdom was not something they themselves invented. Wisdom existed long before the creation of the human race. In fact, it was through wisdom that God created the human race, and it is through wisdom that human beings can now live a meaningful life (Proverbs 8:12-31).

God’s wisdom and human wisdom

Although God is the source of any wisdom that people possess, their wisdom is still limited. God’s wisdom is not. It is infinite and therefore is beyond human understanding (Isaiah 40:28; Romans 11:33-34). In his wisdom God created the universe, and by his wisdom he governs it (Psalms 104:24; Proverbs 3:19; Revelation 7:12). His plan of salvation for his sinful creatures demonstrates to people and angels his unsearchable wisdom (Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:10).

The wisdom of God in salvation was expressed in Jesus Christ, both in his life and in his death (Matthew 12:42; Matthew 13:54; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:3). Again the wisdom was concerned not with philosophical notions but with practical action. Jesus died for sinful people so that they might be saved. To those who refuse to believe, salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross seems foolish. Actually, they are the ones who are foolish, for they reject what God in his wisdom has done, and try by their own misguided wisdom to save themselves (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). People may think they are wise, but they must humble themselves and trust in God’s wisdom if they are to be saved (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Because salvation depends on humble trust in God and not on human wisdom, true preachers of the gospel will not try to impress their hearers with their wisdom. Rather they will command people to repent of their sins and trust in the death of Jesus Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Once people have repented and believed, they must make every effort to learn more of God. Then they will begin to grow in true wisdom. This wisdom is not the proud and worldly kind that prevents people from trusting in God, but is a new wisdom based on the character of God who gives it (1 Corinthians 2:6-7; Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 1:28). Only as believers increase in the knowledge of God and his Word can their wisdom develop and be of use to God, to themselves and to others (Psalms 90:12; Daniel 12:3; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:17-19; Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 3:16).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Wisdom'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/w/wisdom.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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