King Solomon wrote, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). But how, exactly, do we do that? How do we learn wisdom from walking with wise people?
One of the best ways to learn from the wise is to search out examples of wisdom in the Bible. It seems natural that we would turn to the Bible for wisdom, but in the popular Bible study Experiencing God, author Henry Blackaby notes, “Christians are becoming more and more unfamiliar with the Bible as a guide for their daily living. Consequently, they turn to worldly solutions, programs, and methods that appear to be answers to spiritual problems.”
So let’s begin with the understanding that the Bible, God’s Word, contains wisdom to deal with every issue we might face in life. In fact, the book of Proverbs is dedicated to wisdom. I read from Proverbs daily. Its 31 chapters allow me to read a chapter a day, corresponding to the day of the month.
Wisdom in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament God imparted wisdom to his people through his prophets. God spoke to the prophets and the prophets, in turn, spoke to the people. We also see wisdom displayed in those God chose to lead his people. In the lives of Moses, David, Joseph, Joshua, and Daniel, we see how God provided wisdom to the leaders he appointed. Moses led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years but was not permitted to enter the promised land. Joshua succeeded Moses and, through the wisdom God gave him, led God’s people into Canaan.
Joseph was known for his wisdom in dealing with Pharaoh and being able to interpret dreams. Daniel was known as a man of prayer and God blessed him with wisdom to influence a pagan nation.
King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. He asked for wisdom from God rather than riches or power. God granted his request for wisdom and then multiplied all that Solomon had. Solomon’s glory and the nation of Israel became known throughout the world because of his wisdom.
Wisdom in the New Testament
When we first meet Saul of Tarsus in Acts, we might be hard pressed to think he would become Paul, the great apostle and servant of Christ. Saul was the epitome of Jewish learning. He lived to persecute Christians. But he was changed by the Lord and became one of the most ardent Christians of his time. Through his wisdom, example, and writings, he continues to have a great impact on the church and the world. His spiritual wisdom and his understanding of the Jewish faith were paramount in helping others convert to Christianity. Paul serves as an example for all time of what it means to live out James’s admonition, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13).
Stephen demonstrated great wisdom as he endured his trial before the Sanhedrin and was martyred for his faith in Jesus. Acts 6:10 tell us, “They could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.”
What can we learn from these examples and how can we apply what we learn to our faith and daily lives? Christians serve a God who works through his creation to accomplish his will and extend his kingdom. So, how do we walk with the wise to become wise?
From the examples of the prophets in the Old Testament we learn that God spoke through other people to reveal wisdom to us. And much like in the Bible, it is up to us to choose whether or not we heed this wisdom. If God is speaking through others to us, why wouldn’t we listen? If we want to walk with the wise, we need to be receptive to what they have to say to us.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” As cliché as it may sound, there is truth in the statement. Moses, Joshua, Daniel, and others demonstrate that wisdom is granted to those who are committed to God’s work. God takes the foolish things of this world and uses them to teach and advance his kingdom. If these leaders had not been open to the influence of the Spirit, God’s will may not have been accomplished as it was, or perhaps God would have then chosen to work through different people in a different way. Our job is to listen to and obey the still, small voice of God. God said through the prophet Malachi, “I the Lord do not change” (3:6). Since God never changes, we can be sure the wisdom of God found in Scripture doesn’t change either. If we are to seek wisdom and walk with the wise, who is wiser than our Creator?
Stephen spoke wisdom before the Sanhedrin. He teaches us by example that we are called to speak up for God even in the midst of strong opposition We are told to be ready in season and out of season to defend our faith, and we learn how to do that by walking with wise people like Stephen. And by learning from people today—church leaders, Sunday school teachers, Christian radio programs, and our church family and friends. We can learn far more by listening and observing than speaking when it is not our time to speak.
There are many ways to walk with the wise today, but as the popular children’s church song says, “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” That rock is God, who gives us wisdom. The wisdom of the Bible can help us handle situations and problems at work, home, school, church, and wherever we go, advancing God’s kingdom and making disciples. But as readily available as that wisdom is, it is up to us to seek it out—to saturate our lives, our minds, and our souls with it. Jesus promised his disciples that God’s Holy Spirit would “teach you all things” (John 14:26). They, in turn, imparted that wisdom to us through Scripture. That’s why it’s called “the good news.”
Beau Bruton is a freelance writer who lives in Cave City, Kentucky. He is an active member of Cave City Christian Church. He has been happily married for 17 years to his wife, Tammy, and they have a seven-year-old daughter.