At a funeral I attended a while ago, the minister was commenting on the deceased and said that his life was “a life well lived.” That idea stuck with me. God has given us life, and that life provides us with an opportunity to live it well, not-so-well, or even poorly. But it’s not always clear how to live life well. Life can get complicated. It’s not always easy to know how to navigate through life’s often turbulent waters.
We need wisdom to handle the complicated challenges life presents. The ancients understood this and put a premium on attaining wisdom. They even had an official class of people, usually associated with the king’s court, called the wise men, to help guide a nation.
King Solomon the Wise
Of all the wise men of ancient times, none was more celebrated than Solomon, king of Israel. You can read all about his life and wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Kings 2).
Even today, he and other biblical wise men provide us with great insights for attaining true wisdom. They knew the true source of wisdom and drank deeply from that well.
King Solomon put it this way: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Now, the fear he is referring to is more like reverent trust than being terrified. Wisdom begins and continues as we hold the reverence and awe of God deep in our hearts. Solomon understood God as the source of all true wisdom in the world. He wrote elsewhere, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
The Hebrew word for wisdom in the Scriptures is chokhmah. It means to have the capacity to understand and to have skill in living. It implies adherence to a set of standards.
According to the Bible, wisdom is an incredibly valuable thing to have. The Bible even says it is of far greater worth than the material things people value in this world (Proverbs 3:13–15; 8:10–11; 16:16). For Solomon, wisdom was supreme! (Proverbs 4:7)
The Importance of Wisdom
Why? First, because its application in our lives is a safeguard from all kinds of misery (Proverbs 1:24–33). God promises that the way to long life, wealth, honor, pleasant paths, true peace (shalom), and blessedness to our lives is found by walking according to God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:13–18). We are not guaranteed these things by following God, but we cannot experience these blessings as a whole if we neglect God’s wisdom. Second, and most importantly, walking in wisdom is the way that we share in the likeness of our heavenly Father, enabling a closer relationship with him than when we neglect wisdom. This second point is more important because we can enjoy a close relationship with God through wisdom even when the circumstances of our lives remain painful.
The biblical writers encouraged their readers to do all they could to gain wisdom, to seek it as a miner labors for silver or gold (Proverbs 2:1–6). Scripture exhorts us to spend our lives in diligent study, prayer, and the practical application of what we have learned from God.
The New Testament makes wisdom even more personal and accessible. If we want to know what wisdom looks like, we can look to Jesus, who is God’s wisdom personified. When we observe how Jesus lived, listen to how he talked, and see how he responded to the difficulties in his life, we see a rabbi leading us in the master class of life. He told his followers, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). His purpose was to teach Israel God’s ways and to mend Israel’s relationship with God.
Surprisingly, Jesus claimed to be even wiser than Solomon (Luke 11:31), which would be an odd claim to make, since the Scriptures say that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:29– 34). Who is wiser than the wisest man who ever lived? Only God is wiser. Oh yes, that would make sense, given who Jesus claimed to be. That is why we follow Rabbi Jesus as we learn the ways of God’s wisdom.