Summary: The book of Proverbs begins with the purpose of a Proverbs and the definition of true wisdom.
An Introduction to Wisdom
Illus. A Baptist pastor was praying with his staff and deacons one Sunday morning before services when a cloud filled the room.
A deep voice spoke out to the pastor. "Which every you wish, it will be given to you: wisdom, wealth or great looks."
The pastor, without hesitating, said aloud, "Wisdom, Lord. Give me wisdom."
The voice then said, "Granted". The smoke cleared and the presence was gone. Everyone sat there quietly and amazed for a moment.
The chairman of the deacon then asked, "Now that you have wisdom, what is the first thing that comes to your mind."
The pastor simply said, "Now I know I should have taken the money."
Pro 1:1-7 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth-- 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
In this passage, we get the purpose for this great book. It supplies a great introduction to our series. The purpose: to help the reader to know wisdom and instruction, to help the reader understand words of insight, to prepare the one to receive instructions in wise dealings, in righteousness, justice and equity, to give prudence to the simple, and knowledge and discretion to the youth, to help you understand how to use a proverb and benefit from it.
The first six verses, particularly 2-6, lists the purposes of Proverbs. Verse seven then lays the foundation for knowledge and wisdom.
I want us to launch our study with some simple points that draw from several passages to help us begin this study and search for more wisdom as God has planned.
I. What is wisdom?
What is the difference from wisdom, common sense and knowledge? Excellent question. I am so glad you asked.
First, let me give you the secular definition of wisdom, not because it is right, but because it is commonly accepted. From there, we can move to what is godly wisdom.
The dictionary says, Wisdom is basically knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. Simply put, the dictionary defines wisdom as not only knowing stuff, but how to use that knowledge in a right way. In other words, wisdom, as defined in Webster, has an intellectual aspect and a moral aspect. It is to know and know how to use it rightly.
The problem with this definition is the question, Who decides how we are to use this knowledge the right way? And many answers abound. There are some proverbs that address this from our culture.
1. You've probably heard, "Always look out for number one." This philosophy stems from the concept that everyone else is looking out for themselves, and that leaves no one to look out for you. This is what I would considered the godless approach. In a secular, godless world, this would be a mighty fine philosophy for survival. However, it fails in the light of God's instructions.
Christ's message was to love others sacrificially, esteem others more than ourselves, serve one another and seek to meet others' needs, while seeking first to please God.
2) There's the idea that we are to "Always do what is best for mankind as a whole." This is what I would call a religious wisdom. The primary goal of this wisdom is to seek the betterment of society, a theme for religion since the beginning. The nobility in it is that it calls for selflessness and sacrifice to better the plight of the members of society as a whole.
Many good people live by this view of wisdom. If someone lives by this, we would consider them a moral person. However, again, it strikes the chord of Romans chapter 1, of man worshiping the creature more than the creator. When the Proverb said, "There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it destroys (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25), I believe this was part of what the writer was speaking about.
James warns us that there are two major definitions of wisdom. James 3:13-18 "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."