Are you wise?
Do you believe yourself to be wise?
If you are wise, does that mean you are smart or intelligent? Is to be smart the same as to be wise?
Do you know someone who is wise?
I am sure that you know someone who thinks or acts as if he or she is wise. It seems as if there is one of them in every crowd. We call them “smart alecks” or “wiseacres.” It is not a compliment to be called that. Although everyone of us would like it if we were said to be wise, no one wants to be called a wiseacre.
Can we make ourselves wise? Can we get wisdom? Or can we learn to be wise?
Or is it such that one is either wise by birth or there is no hope for him ever to be wise? Is it a matter of our genes which determines whether we are wise or not? If it is, then we cannot do anything about it. Then you and I are as wise as we are ever going to be.
All of these questions are important to consider. They are important to the young. They are also important to those who are old.
Maybe we can answer these questions, or at least begin to answer these questions, by finding out the answer to another question. That is an obvious question: “What is wisdom? What does it mean to be wise?”
First of all, wisdom implies a knowledge. One who is wise must know some things; he must have some sort of knowledge. He must have some facts in his head.
But that can not be all there is. We seem to sense that there is more to it than just knowledge. I believe we sense that because we know someone who is wise. Generally, he is an older man. And usually he has not had much of an education. This would make us conclude that, to some extent, experience is as an important element of wisdom as knowledge.
Now then, just what is wisdom?
A simple definition of wisdom might be: to know what is the best way to gain the highest end or goal.
A wise man puts into practice the knowledge he has.
God is wise. I Tim. 1:17 and Rom. 16:27. He uses that which He controls for the highest end. The highest end for God is the glorification of His own name. To say that God is wise means that we believe God knows how to plan and control all things in such a way that everything and everyone glorifies God.
What makes a man wise?
I can remember a minister using an example as he was explaining what wisdom is. If I can remember correctly, the example went something like this. He spoke of a man who had gone to an automotive school and had aced all the courses. Then as this man, was driving home from his final exam one of the tires on his car went flat. Surveying the object of his trouble the man KNEW he had a flat tire. He KNEW he had to replace that flat tire with a spare tire he had in the trunk of his car. But this man, who had just passed his final exams in automotive school with flying colors, did not know HOW to change his flat tire. He had knowledge, but he had no wisdom. The point of this example is that it takes more than just knowledge to be wise.
A man is wise when he knows how to use all he knows. He knows how to apply what he knows to practical life.
According to the Word of God, a man is wise when he knows how to do something to the glory of God. The highest end for man is the glory of God. Because the glorification of God is the highest end for God, it has to be the highest end or goal for man.
A wise man practices his faith. He talks it and knows it, but he also lives it. All of us know people who can talk a lot about religion and about the Bible and about spiritual things. But if these people do only that, if they only talk about it (or complain about it!), we do not think much of them. Oh, we may think that they are quite knowledgeable. And they might even leave an impression upon us—at first. But soon we begin to realize that that is all it is: knowledge. They talk a lot about what they know, but they do not live it.
Wisdom is the ability to use all things to the glory of God. Wisdom tells us how to study. Wisdom tells us how to play. Wisdom tells us how to date. It tells us how to marry and give in marriage. It tells us how to eat and drink and be merry, all to the glory of God. Wisdom also tells us how to weep.
Wisdom tells us how to live.
Can a young person be wise?
Earlier we suggested that each one of us knows a wise man. At that time we said that it was probably an older person whom we would call wise. Does that mean that one has to be old to be wise? Is there any hope for a young person?
A young person can be wise. He is wise when he fears the Lord.
Job asks a very interesting question in Job 28:12. Get a Bible and look up that text. Preferably, get your own Bible and underline the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth words in that verse. (Do not keep reading this article in the hope that you will find that verse quoted here. You will not find it, so go get your Bible.)
In the rest of that chapter Job answers that question. Read it just before you go to bed tonight. For now, go to the last verse of that chapter, verse 28, and find the answer. Is not that a beautiful answer? (I hope you did not close your Bible already, because if you did, you will have to find Job 28 again, because verse 28 will not be quoted in this article either.) Why not underline the key words of that verse, too.
Who wants to be wise? Do you, young Christian?
You can be wise. It is possible for you to be wise.
Only fear the Lord.
But, I hear you ask, how do we fear the Lord? What does it mean to fear God or to be God-fearing?
What “God-fearing” means is hard to explain and hard to understand. But do not stop reading just because it gets a little hard to understand. I may not stop writing, so you ought not to stop reading. We just have to concentrate.
First, to fear God means that we stand before God. Can you imagine what that is like? God is in our mind and we are thinking about Him. This God we know is not a buddy, but the great, almighty God. He is the infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, perfectly wise, just, good, and holy One. And before Him we are standing.
Secondly, this fear of God is not that kind of fear which means to be afraid. Rather it is that fear which is great respect. It cannot mean that we are afraid because someone who is God-fearing is drawn TO God.
Therefore, to fear God means that we humbly want Him and seek Him. Because we fear Him we want to know Him better and better. And so it means that we study the Word of God. When we find ourselves standing before someone whom we know to be very important, we are going to want to hear everything he says. One who is God-fearing listens to God speak to Him in the preaching and spends times reading the Speech of God.
The third thing involved in the fear of God is about our attitude towards this great God. We see ourselves as being very small and insignificant. One who fears God is always humble. He stands in awe and wonder as he gazes up at God.
As you stand before the God revealed in Scripture, you are struck with awe and reverence. The awe is because you are so conscious of His nearness. When we contemplate God, then we, like the publican in the corner of the temple, smite our breasts in repentance.
Finally, the fear of God implies a desire to please this God before Whom we stand. The fear of God brings us upon our knees and we pray, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord; show me Thy paths.”
Standing before such a great God we do not even think about what we want to do. That is unimportant. Right now God is everything. And therefore we want to do what He would have us do.
We worship and revere God, consecrate the whole of our life to Him. This must be what Solomon meant inEcclesiastes 12:13. Look up this verse, too. In your Bible underline all the words between and including the fourth and eleventh words of that verse.
Because we want to do what God wants us to do, we are again going to go to the Bible. Whether for our belief or for our conduct, the fear of God brings us to the Word of God.
In review, the fear of God means: 1. to stand consciously before God, 2. to know God, 3. to be humbled, 4. and to want to do what He commands.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This means that the fear of Jehovah is the source, origin, and cause of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the basis upon which wisdom stands. It is the fountain out of which wisdom flows.
He who fears God is truly wise. The fear of God begins wisdom. And it continuously proposes wisdom as we move from moment to moment and from day to day.
There are many people who think they are wise. They may be worldly wise, i.e., wise according to the world. We may think of men who were geniuses in math or philosophy or in science. But Solomon makes all the wisdom of the world, which is without the fear of the Lord, to be vanity, an empty shadow.
All who are ignorant of the purpose for which they live are fools and madmen. There is no worse blindness than when God is forgotten and despised.
With the fear of the Lord in your heart, you will be wise. Motivated by the fear of God you will humbly study readily. Motivated by the fear of God you will humbly work hard. Motivated by the fear of God you will humbly do all things to the glory of God.
Then you will be wise.
Who wants to be wise?