Our last few post have dealt with character traits that mark the people of God. The first is goodness. We have elevated being right over being good and have compromised the trajectory of our effectiveness to be salt and light in the world.
The second is love. Without love we are worthless, and while many Christians would agree with that statement – love is not a descriptor used by the world when speaking of Jesus’ disciples. We have substituted being pious over being loving. We would rather be fully devoted followers of Jesus than compassionate.
A Defining Mark:
This week we will look at the third of four distinctive traits that mark God’s people: wisdom.
Wisdom is not a character trait that rolls off the lips of those describing the people of God. As a matter of fact many would describe us as ignorant, narrow-minded or naive. And while “faith” may be viewed as ignorance to a society enculturated in valuing empirical evidence, there may be an element of truth to their assessment.
Wisdom in its various forms (the highest being an acute ability to discern) is revered with a sense of awe by all, Christian and non-Christian alike. It is difficult to label a discerning individual as being naive or ignorant.
The wisest people on the face of the planet should be the people of God – after all it’s a part of our Christian DNA. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:23-24 that to the gentile, “Christ crucified” is foolishness, and to the Jew a stumbling block. But to those who are believers, Christ is the power and wisdom of God.
This wisdom is in us.
So why aren’t more Christians wise? The trajectory gets off because we would rather be comfortable and find refuge in what we know than to engage in the rigor of exercising wisdom.
Knowledge is the lowest form of wisdom. We like knowing what we know and we have convinced ourselves that what we know is truth. We even use adjectives before the word truth, like biblical and absolute to assure ourselves of the comfortable security we have come to love. As if truth can become any more true.
We’ve trained ourselves to put God in a box and don’t want to be confronted by different views because it becomes an assault on our theological framework. We have been so conditioned to be “defenders of truth” that we don’t listen (another foolish practice – see James 1:19). As the result we are always primed for a fight and we primarily fight each other! The world sits back and watches as God’s people vehemently attack each other over “Truth.”
We love the narrowness. We hate the cognitive dissonance brought about by engaging deeper theological thought (like loving God with our minds?). We’d rather tell other people what to think or be told what to think ourselves than to advocate discernment. We have come to place our faith, build our theological frameworks, and formulate our practices on what we know. We consider anything else heresy or something fearfully wicked to be avoided.
Solomon understood that wisdom was something that could never be reduced to the complacency of what we know. When he speaks to a protege about becoming wise in Proverbs 1-9, he compares it to an intense and constant pursuit as one would pursue riches; he likens it to the driving passion that keeps us courting a lover; and, he forcefully reminds us that it should become a relentless life ambition to acquire it. This is all couched in the understanding that as soon as the protege thinks himself to be wise – he is not.
Sound like too much work? True, and that’s the point.
Either we live in the complacency of theological, robotic dimwittedness – or we live into Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God in us.
Live into a Character of Wisdom:
I recently spoke with a friend who asked me how he can “live into a character of wisdom.” He said, “If God instills this character trait in his people then how can we tap into it”? As I pondered this some thoughts came to mind:
1. Desire a character of wisdom as opposed to situational wisdom. We often opt to build our storehouse of wisdom around James 1:5 – just asking for it as the situation arises. But the wisdom of which Solomon speaks and the wisdom that marks God’s people is wisdom of character, not situational wisdom. We need to cultivate a desire to be wise until it pushes us out of our comfort zones. Above everything else – even above a thirst for truth – should be a voracious appetite for wisdom.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get Wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding.”
– Proverbs 4:7
2. Understand that pursuing wisdom is pursuing Christ. Proverbs personifies wisdom as being with God before he laid the foundations of earth and time. As I mentioned earlier, the New Testament personified the wisdom of God as the person of Christ. When we pursue Christ, we pursue wisdom.
3. Be slow to speak and quick to listen. Theological defense engages our mouths because we need to declare what we feel secure in – that which we know. But interestingly, a primary theme in the book of Proverbs is the foolishness of one’s mouth. The Book of James, the wisdom book of the New Testament, warns us of the same thing. Both books accentuate the wisdom found in intense listening, processing, and understanding . . . with our mouths shut.
“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent and discerning if they hold their tongues.”
– Proverbs 17:28
4. Don’t fear if your theological framework is shaken or falls apart. Start with an understanding that an all-powerful unknowable God cannot be reduced to your understanding. His word contains just a slim, jaded glimmer of who he is. Therefore our theologies can become a box in which we put God. The understanding of God is like looking at a diamond. We may only see a facet – that doesn’t mean that someone looking at the same diamond is seeing something wrong because it doesn’t align with what we see. This is where discernment begins.
5. Trust the God of the unseen and unknown. Wisdom requires faith. That is why it seems foolish to an empirical world. But we need to remember that our limited knowledge is also empirical and foolish. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that faith is the evidence of what we do not see or fully know.
Leave a Comment: Are God’s people seen as wise or naive? What has been your experience in pursuing wisdom?