“For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.” (Proverbs 8:11, NLT)
The Bible, especially the Book of Proverbs, speaks much of wisdom. The eighth chapter of Proverbs is a long ode to wisdom which is personified as “she.” But what is wisdom? How do we know when something is “wise?”
Wisdom is more complicated than it seems. On the one hand, wisdom requires knowledge, and yet, just knowing something does not produce wisdom. Wisdom acknowledges hard-edged truth. But wisdom also employs prudence in dispensing truth. (Proverbs 8:12) A core definition of wisdom is applied knowledge. It’s one thing to know something; it is another to apply that knowledge to real-life situations.
This is more than common-sense, which implies some level of natural or innate understanding. Our common-sense is derived from the information and lessons passed down to us. What is common-sense in Illinois may not be common-sense somewhere else. It is common-sense that houses need eight inches or more of insulation in the attic. But that perfectly logical bit of wisdom would be foolish for someone living near the equator where the temperature never dips below freezing. Common-sense is contained in wisdom, but it is not wisdom itself.
To really understand wisdom, we must begin with God. Creation itself is an act of wisdom, a demonstration of applied knowledge. Proverbs 8:22-31 recounts how wisdom was present during creation. “I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.” (Proverbs 8:30, NLT) We are still unraveling the marvels of creation.
But wisdom is more than applying knowledge; it is also knowing when to apply that truth. Parents understand this. You don’t expect a toddler to wash the dishes, but you do teach them to put away their toys. Parents often impart wisdom to their children, but it is the right wisdom at the right time. Apply the right wisdom at the right time is prudence.
There is one final aspect of wisdom to consider. The purpose of wisdom is nothing short of life itself. Consider, “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:35, NLT) The wisdom that is based on knowledge and truth that is appropriate for the situation, that is Godly, and that is timely, will lead to life. The goal of wisdom is to preserve and expand life and enjoy God’s grace (favor). That is the razor by which we can determine if something is wise or foolish – does it lead to a life overflowing with God’s grace? “For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.” (Proverbs 8:11, NLT)