practical wisdom

Why You Should Be Pursuing Wisdom (& Where to Find It)—3 Lessons From Proverbs 8


In undergrad I interviewed with a homebuilder (this was the height of the real estate boom), and I remember the interviewer asking me an area I needed to improve in. I replied that I needed improvement in organization. I then explained how I had begun to keep a calendar to keep track of all my appointments, deadlines, etc., and basically to manage my time. 

What I did not emphasize in that interview was that I had very recently begun to do this, and that organization had been a lifelong struggle for me… in fact it’s one that continues to this day. This is a skill that I have had to learn and relearn over and over. Today, in case you’re wondering, I keep my time organized with two systems: a three-fold notebook and something called a Passion Planner. I track my goals, months and weeks in the Passion Planner, and my notebook is for Idea Work, Daily Tasks and my Journal. All that to say, this is something I’ve had to work hard at, and it’s honestly something I’m still working to master. 

But organization, the mastery of one’s time, is more than a matter of keeping a schedule. It’s about wisdom. In Psalm 90, verse 12, Moses prays, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom is knowing how to put knowledge into practice in an understanding way. And it’s something that must be learned (notice Moses asks God to teach him this). 

That means wisdom is not inherent. You aren’t born with wisdom. And left to your own devices, you will not gain wisdom but remain foolish. But if foolishness is “natural,” then what’s so bad about it? 

And so the question facing us is: Why is it important to pursue wisdom, and where can we find it? In this episode I want to take a look at the book of Proverbs, chapter 8, in which Wisdom herself is going to answer these questions for us.

What we’ll see is that wisdom is supremely valuable, and it is attainable. Even a foolish person can become wise, by getting after it the right way and eschewing lesser pursuits. 

Why It’s Necessary to Pursue Wisdom

The ESV Study Bible points out that Proverbs 8 is outlined in the following way: 

  1. Introduction to wisdom personified (verses 1-3). The rest of the chapter is Wisdom speaking to her “sons” (those who desire to live life well and in way that leads to success, wealth and righteousness. Note: this isn’t prosperity theology, in which God rewards you for performing religious duties. Rather this is about applying wise principles to maximize the investment of your time and effort. It’s about “cutting with the grain” in the world as God made it. This isn’t about guaranteed dollar amounts or certainty of wealth, but it’s generally true that when we live wisely, good results come about). 

  2. Wisdom’s address (4-5)--she calls to fools. The implication here is that even fools can become wise, when they listen to wisdom.

  3. Wisdom’s call and the grounds for hearing her (6-11)

  4. Wisdom’s character and purposes (12-21)

  5. Wisdom’s divine origin and use (22-31)

  6. An appeal to wisdom’s “sons” to get wisdom (32 and following). 

It’s true.

It’s true.

As you journey through this chapter, here’s what you’ll see if you stop and take a few snapshots along the way. 

  • Verses 10-11: Wisdom yields more value than worldly wealth (silver and gold, etc.). 

  • Verses 13-16: Wisdom is essential both for living everyday life rightly, as well as exercising authority and influence effectively and well. Wisdom is bound up with righteousness, justice, and goodness. True wisdom is moral.

  • Verses 27-30: Wisdom is the principle by which the Lord himself created the cosmos. This is the ultimate example of wisdom being knowledge applied in an understanding way. 

  • Verse 36: Wisdom makes the difference between life and death. Those who reject the pursuit of wisdom are choosing death.

The big idea here is this: Pursue wisdom, and you will enjoy her benefits. 

Is This Really Practical?

Someone may object that all this talk about wisdom, trying to live wisely, etc., is great in principle, but it just isn’t practical. After all, we live in the real world, and sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules a little--whether ethically, or legally, or what have you. The pursuit of wisdom sounds nice if you’re a philosopher (after all philo-sophia is the love of wisdom), but in the real world it’s the pragmatist that gets ahead. 

What do we make of this objection? 

Well Proverbs 8 teaches us that wisdom is eminently practical. In fact, it’s by wisdom that God created the real world in which we live. The physical, logical, mathematical, moral, and whatever other rules we observe are reflections of God’s own righteous and wise character (and I would even say that in logic and morality are real attributes of God). It’s impossible to live in this world without experiencing God’s wisdom. So you can either pursue that wisdom (and live well in the world) or reject it (a trajectory leading to death).

Pragmatism says, I want wealth, I want success, I want to define my own values and I don’t give a rip about God or how he established the world, or the principles by which he created it and governs it. This is the height of foolishness. And if we are honest with ourselves, this attitude describes us all. 

That’s why Solomon has to strongly exhort us to pursue wisdom rather than silver and gold. It’s because we naturally are self-seeking and want what we want, when we want it, on our own terms rather than God’s, rather than what is wise. This attitude is the epitome of sin, and the wages of sin, it turns out, is death (Romans 6:23--see how consistent Scripture is with itself?). 

So how can we be restored to God and pursue wisdom? This comes through Jesus. Scholars have long noted how Jesus seems to be the epitome of wisdom personified here. God created the world by wisdom, and John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus is the Logos, the word or logic, by which God created the world. Colossians 2:3 tell us that in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

The Gospel teaches us that, while we were selfishly seeking our own benefit apart from God’s wisdom, traveling on the road to death by way of foolishness, God sent Jesus to take that death from us. He experienced death on the cross and conquered it. In him, by faith in his name, we identify with that death, dying to our former, pragmatic, sinful selves and becoming restored to “the only wise God” (Romans 16:27). In Christ we are now free to pursue and actually discover “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

Jesus is the Lord, to whom we owe our very lives, which is a fearful thing, and the Bible therefore appropriately teaches that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). 

So then, looking at wisdom from three perspectives, we see its supreme value, its eminent usefulness, and its transformative power in the life of one who seeks it--even someone who had previously been foolish. Even fools can become wise. Pursue wisdom, and you will enjoy her benefits. 

Where to Find Wisdom

Let’s make this section short and sweet. 

  1. Word: First and foremost, find wisdom in God’s word. Dedicate yourself to reading, interpreting, and applying God’s word. Man does not live on bread alone, you know. Read the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and James. But God’s word is saturated with his wisdom for life. 

  2. World: Secondly, observe God’s world. Proverbs 8 tells us that God created the world by wisdom. That means we should expect to see God’s wisdom reflected in what he’s made. We see it in science. We see it in mathematics. We see it in politics. We see it in business. We see it in family. When people rightly apply God’s wisdom to these arenas of life, they go well. When they don’t, they don’t. Earlier in Proverbs, Solomon (the author of the book) instructs his reader to “go to the ant” for wisdom. God’s wisdom is reflected in God’s world. And we interpret that through his word, going back to point number 1. 

  3. Relationships: Finally, seek wisdom in your friendships and relationships. Get a godly mentor or coach--someone who loves the Lord. Throughout my life, my dad has been a source of godly wisdom. My wife is very wise. I’ve been incredibly blessed over the last six months with others--ministry leaders, consultants, and pastors, who have given me a word of counsel at just the right time. The shape and directly of the Think Institute has been greatly impacted by conversations I’ve had over lunch and coffee with wise people. Recently I’ve made great progress in overcoming the sin of laziness by applying practical wisdom (e.g. committing to waking up at 5 a.m.) from a sermon (from Pastor Mike Bullmore), with the help of a brother in Christ; we text each other at 5 a.m. to hold each other accountable. It’s been a big step forward in wisdom in my life. Get godly people around you who are wise and who can help you walk in wisdom!

The big idea, again is this: Pursue wisdom, and you will enjoy her benefits. And true wisdom is found only in Christ.

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