By Tammy Darling
In Proverbs 4:7 we are told, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (King James Version). Sounds great, we think, until we realize that we don’t really know how to get wisdom.
Although wisdom is a gift from God (Proverbs 2:6), it requires effort on our part. Solomon’s wisdom wasn’t dependent on his IQ, although I’m sure it must have been high. Instead there was a combination of elements that enriched his life and can enrich ours as well. Wisdom comes from God, and while it’s true that some people are wiser than others, every one of us can grow in wisdom.
Prerequisite to Wisdom
When I was a child, I feared God, but it was not a holy fear. It was a fear of Hell and what God might do to me. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then.
Until we have a proper fear of the Lord, we will never walk in wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We’ll never grow in our understanding, and thus wisdom, unless we have an attitude of proper respect and reverence for God. It’s an ongoing cycle: The more we revere God, the more wisdom we gain; the more we grow in wisdom, the greater our reverence of God will be.
To fear God means that we give him the place of honor, reverence, thanksgiving, and preeminence he deserves. It means we proactively hate what he hates and love what he loves. It means we take seriously his commands and work them out in our daily lives.
An apt fear of the Lord will lead to unconditional obedience, whether or not we understand what he is doing. This proper fear of the Lord will enable us to take a single step when no other steps are in view.
Holy fear is realizing that we can’t hide anything from God—and not wanting to. We go to him with a desire to reveal our hearts, for God desires “truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6, New King James Version).
Had King Saul feared God, he would have obeyed God and his kingdom would not have been taken from him. If David and his entourage had a proper fear of God, Uzzah never would have touched the ark of the covenant, which resulted in his death.
The fear of the Lord, while often overlooked, is essential to our walk with him. “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them” (Psalm 25:14).
We grow in wisdom step-by-step. It is a lifelong journey that requires determination and purpose. The following are six ways we can grow in wisdom:
• Know what wisdom is. We’ve already touched on what wisdom does for us but not so much on what it is. The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, is also translated as “skill.” Wisdom is not some intangible, mysterious, hard-to-define quality that is strangely acquired by some and not others. No, wisdom is a skill.
Wisdom is the skill of living life from God’s perspective, a skill that is largely learned as we increase in humility and deepen our relationship with him. God’s wisdom motivates us to pursue knowledge and understanding more than material riches. With wisdom we respond to correction in a spirit of humility, and we find favor with God and other people (Proverbs 3:4).
When we face decisions with wisdom, we’ll trust in God more than in our own human reasoning. Of course, we’ll never be omniscient, but we can have the mind of Christ, which enables us to think godly thoughts and to react to life’s circumstances in a Christlike way.
Wisdom is living what we learn—diligently applying the truths that God shows us. Wisdom is being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
• Request prayers for wisdom. Solomon was wise because his father (David) first prayed for wisdom for his son. “Now, my son, the Lord be with you; and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:11, 12).
I used to feel embarrassed about asking others to pray that I might have wisdom. It somehow seemed prideful to me. But then I realized that requesting wisdom requires humility, because then I have to admit that I need it!
• Pray for wisdom for yourself. Solomon directly asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9), and James said we can do the same (1:5). Our prayers are powerful. God hears every one, knows our hearts, and desires that we walk in wisdom.
Don’t be shy about praying for wisdom, for James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” I once heard it said that if you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees.
• Pursue wisdom. Wisdom will not come seeking us. We’re instructed in Proverbs 2:1-6 to pursue wisdom as if we’re looking for hidden treasure. If only we could understand the immense value of wisdom! When we fail to seek wisdom, we are destined for a life of “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
The ancient Greeks loved to philosophize about life and thought they were oh so wise, but in truth their musings had little bearing on practical living. To grow in wisdom, we must seek it out and apply it to our everyday lives. We’re all invited to wisdom’s house, but we have to get up and go.
• Meditate on Scripture. God’s Word reflects his heart, and the Bible’s teachings and stories reveal what he values. We grow in wisdom as we study and meditate on the Word of God with the goal of conforming our thoughts and values to his.
Obviously we can’t just open our Bible and read whether to accept a job in another state or whether to buy a new vehicle. But as we gain “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we are able to see our circumstances from his point of view and act accordingly.
• Put wisdom in action. Wisdom is not passive; it’s active. Possession is meaningless if it’s not used for its intended purpose. We may possess the potential for great wisdom, but growing in wisdom involves both response and initiative on our part. And you will never gain more wisdom unless you consistently use what you have. Like Solomon, we are foolish if we do not consistently live what we learn. If we don’t apply the truths God shows us, we stunt wisdom’s growth in our lives.
Biblical wisdom in action would look something like this: Perhaps you have a daughter who is becoming increasingly cynical and smart-mouthed—just like the friends she’s been hanging around lately. Now worldly wisdom would say, allow her to go her own way; she has to learn by her own mistakes. Or some may say, forbid her to see the friends again and that’s it. However, biblical wisdom would follow biblical principles.
Now this doesn’t mean you beat her over the head with Scripture. It means living out those principles in your own life as an example to her and her friends. For instance, instead of forbidding your daughter to see her friends, invite them over to your house and demonstrate God’s love to them. Let your daughter hear you pray for them. Invite them to church activities, and so on. This is putting wisdom in action.
The Principal Thing
Wisdom is essential to living a balanced spiritual life. Without it we are incomplete. The God of all wisdom earnestly desires that we know what wisdom is, pursue wisdom, and apply wisdom to our everyday lives so that we may “gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Wisdom is not the only thing, but it is the principal thing.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.