Who is wise? The Antidote to Earthly Wisdom
Our culture is saturated with the concept that we should do our own thing, follow our hearts, and do what is right for us. Relativism is rampant. If it feels right for you, then do it. The new “tolerance” promotes accepting any and all decisions, actions, life styles, and choices. There is no right or wrong. What motivates a person is usually based on his/her selfish ambitions. This is earthly wisdom. Judges 21:25 puts it this way: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Yet, a society that is based on each person’s personal values will lead to chaos and emptiness.
People have extra-marital affairs because it feels good or they were bored with their spouse, sadly with little regard for the damage done to spouse and family. This results in scores of broken homes, hurting children, single mothers living in poverty and societal breakdown. Business deals are made on a personal, corporate or governmental level with no regard for honesty or ethics as long as profits are coming in. The economic problems we struggle with today are a direct result of those decisions. Some teenagers are using social media to destroy a person’s character because they didn’t “like them,” which carries terrible consequences for the injured party, sometimes resulting in suicide. This type of behavior is opposite of God’s plan for us. The Book of Proverbs has much to say about this type of wisdom. Proverbs 3:7 states, “Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and shun evil.” And poignantly, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 14:12.
Even King Solomon, the man who was granted wisdom by God and is considered the wisest of men, writes in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” As Christians we know there is more to life than “chasing after the wind,” that another type of wisdom exists, the wisdom that is from God, what might be called heavenly wisdom.
How do we obtain this wisdom? We begin by having a deep reverence for God and His word. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, all who follow His percepts have a good understanding.” Psalm 111:10. Again, the Book of Proverbs points us in the right direction, “Turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding….Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2: 2-3, 5-6, 9-11
God’s wisdom is heavenly wisdom and God’s wisdom is recorded in The Bible. But where do we start obtaining that wisdom? Centuries ago our gracious God wrote guideposts for us to follow; these guideposts were the Ten Commandments. Exodus 32:15-16 tells us that God wrote the tablets containing the Ten Commandments with His own hand. If God wrote the commandments in His own hand, don’t you think He wants you to follow them?
Knowledge of God’s word is essential to understanding and receiving the wisdom He wants us to have. We must spend time studying the Bible and learning God’s precepts, His rules and principles. “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:8-11. Do you desire that type of wisdom? James tells us to ask in faith and God will grant it to us (James 1:5,6).
How can you tell the difference between earthly and heavenly wisdom? Compare the different characteristics of wisdom in this chart (source: The Maxwell Leadership Bible):
GODLY WISDOM WORDLY WISDOM
- Gentle and generous 1. Selfishly ambitious and jealous
- Speaks the truth 2. Speaks lies and deceives
- Pure and organized 3. Disorderly and demonic
- Results in peace 4. Results in disharmony
- Reasonable 5. Self-centered
- The fruit of love and mercy 6. The fruit of strife and competition
What is the antidote to earthly wisdom and selfish ambition? In Proverbs, wise King Solomon gives us this instruction: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6