What is wisdom? Believers often struggle to define wisdom, because to many the concept of wisdom seems abstract and mysterious. Biblical wisdom, however, is concrete and practical. It is the ability to make godly choices in life. Wisdom is not something you are born with, but something that you should pursue, attain and develop throughout your life.
Where do we get wisdom? The world has its own ideas of where to find wisdom. James warns us against wisdom “from below” (James 3:15). This is worldly wisdom and is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic”. It is motivated by “jealousy and selfish ambition” and leads to “disorder and every file practice” (v. 16). True wisdom cannot be found “below”. True wisdom comes “from above” (v. 17), because God is the source of wisdom.
Wisdom is an attribute of God. As Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.” (Dan. 2:20-22). In his distress Job had to acknowledge: “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.” (Job 12:13).
What is the difference between God’s knowledge and God’s wisdom? When God’s knowledge is applied and governed by God’s character, that is called wisdom. God’s wisdom is practical. JI Packer explains it this way: “God’s wisdom is seen in His works of creation, preservation and redemption”. Let’s unpack that for a moment.
Packer explains that God’s wisdom is first seen in “His choice of His own glory as His goal”. This is wise, because there is no greater goal than the glory of God. If God were to serve any lesser goal, he would not be wise. Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”.
Second, God’s wisdom is seen in His decision to achieve his goal “by creating a marvellous variety of things and people”. Creation is a testament to God’s wisdom. Ps. 104:24 says: “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
Third, God’s wisdom is seen in “kindly providences of all sorts”. The way in which God guides, governs and cares for creation displays his wisdom. Paul, preaching in Lystra, said: “[God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17).
And finally God’s wisdom is seen in “the redemptive ‘wisdom’ of ‘Christ crucified’”. The gospel proves the wisdom of God and humbles the so-called wisdom of man. In the words of 1 Cor. 1:23-25: “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Even the church, which is born from the gospel, displays God’s wisdom: “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:10).
Let’s make it personal. How should we respond to the wisdom of God? You can start by submitting to it. Charles Spurgeon said: “Our Creator is infinitely good, and his will is love: to submit to one who is ‘to wise to err, too good to be unkind,’ should not be hard.”
You should also pursue wisdom. We need wisdom to live lives that please the Lord. Even so, we need to be careful where we go looking for that wisdom; as we’ve seen, wisdom from below leads to disaster. We need to pursue wisdom “from above”. How do we do that?
First, fear the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”. Second, receive God’s Word. Psalm 119:98 says: “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” And third, pray for wisdom. James 1:5 encourages us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God is perfectly wise and worthy of our trust and obedience.
Because of Christ,