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Underrated Wisdom

As Bible students, most of us tend to have our favorite books, favorite passages, and our favorite verses. We have our favorite Bible characters, favorite stories, and we may even have our favorite virtues, or at least those that we deem to be of highest importance in our lives. We spend extra time, and justifiably so, on key texts such as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, or the Marks of a True Christian in Romans 12. As we study these passages and diligently work to add these virtues and cultivate them in our lives, I wonder if perhaps we don’t sometimes unintentionally overlook another important virtue. Wisdom.

If I’m being candid, I don’t always consider wisdom. It’s not that I’d ever dismiss the importance of wisdom, I just don’t always think to ask for or pray for it – at least not as often as I should. Pausing to reflect and ask myself why this is, I can’t help but wonder – is this problem unique to me, or do others sometimes overlook wisdom as well? I suspect some are more diligent than others, but I also suspect that nearly all of us would admit, that we could use more wisdom and could do better in seeking after wisdom. In that way, it seems wisdom is somewhat underappreciated as a Christian virtue. We’re aware of it, we acknowledge it’s importance, but it’s not always top-of-mind. It doesn’t always elicit the same attention that we give to attributes such as faith, hope and love or patience, compassion, kindness and self-control. We underestimate its value, until the time comes where we’re confronted with an urgent need for wisdom or are reminded in some way of its importance, for example in passages such as Proverbs 16:16, which reads, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen, rather than silver.”

As we consider wisdom, let’s begin with a working definition. The Greek word we most commonly see in scripture is sophia. The meaning here can be defined as insight, discernment and judgment. It also conveys a sense of having skill in the management of affairs, or in more Biblical contexts, ability and discretion in understanding and imparting truth.

Many would agree that wisdom, particularly as described above, is a virtue that’s increasingly in short supply in today’s world. How many issues, conflicts and catastrophes might have been avoided, if only wisdom had been allowed to prevail? Considering this attribute from a more practical perspective, we can observe that wisdom has unlimited utility in our lives and can be especially valuable when applied in the following domains:

  1. Wisdom is useful for navigating the many complexities of modern life - Colossians 4:5-6 reads, “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” This encouragement from Paul most surely resonates with all of us as. As our social interactions become more diverse and complex, it’s increasingly important that we employ wisdom in all facets of our life, from our conduct and speech to the way we show empathy and how we respond in certain circumstances. Some today might refer to this is ‘EQ’ or emotional intelligence. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, calls it wisdom.
  2. Wisdom is vital to healthy relationships - Whether it be your spouse, children, grandchildren, in-laws or other family relations, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, schoolmates or our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, one thing is certain – we need an abundance of wisdom. We need insight, discernment, judgement, patience and “graceful speech seasoned with salt” so that we might understand how to respond, how to help and how to encourage one another, no matter the time or the circumstance.
  3. Wisdom is critical to understanding God’s word - Proverbs 2:6-7 reads, “For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” This passage clearly tells us that God gives wisdom, and if we seek knowledge and understanding, we must go to God and to His word to find it. I like to think of this as a “beautiful spiral”. The more we seek God and His wisdom, the more wisdom He gives. The more wisdom we receive, the more we realize that we need to seek godly wisdom, who in turn gives still more wisdom and understanding…and on it goes.

Perhaps the most recognizable passage on wisdom in all of scripture can be found in James chapter 1. Verses 5 and 6 read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” There’s undoubtedly a lot to unpack in these two verses from James, but in essence the take-away is unmistakably clear – we should be asking for and praying for wisdom. Every. Single. Day. And not only that, it’s important, that we do so confidently, knowing that God wants us to have it and has promised to give it in abundance.

As we work together here at Cedar Park church of Christ, striving to serve and encourage one another in unity and fellowship with Jesus Christ, let’s be certain to always consider the value of wisdom, specifically God’s wisdom, which James again writes about in chapter 3:17-18, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”