As a spiritual director, I spend a lot of time thinking about wisdom. Somtimes I’m asked “How will I know something is of God?” Sometimes I’m sitting with someone in the throes of making a difficult descision where wisdom seems out of reach and the temptation is to make a decision just for the sake of “getting things settled.” When you know you’re desperate for relief, how will you know if you’ve made a good decision?
Our epistle reading on Sunday was from James 3–I don’t think I’ve ever read it from this translation before. Two things struck me about this description of wisdom: first, this descripton reads a bit like a list of the fruits of the Spirit. Secondly, this description of wisdom parallels wisdom in the book of Proverbs, especially Proverbs 8, where wisdom is personified as a woman.
My own perception of wisdom is almost equal to “facts.” Facts are true statements; they are what they are, nothing more, nothing less. You can build them to make arguements, persuasions or string them together to make boundaries. But you would never think of a fact as a person. A robot maybe, but not a living thing.
James’ Wisdom sounds like a living being, a person. Just reading this one sentence from James, you can imagine hanging around Wisdom and finding her a remarkably calming person. Wisdom will talk you off the ledge or out of the tree. You can talk to Wisdom, reason with Wisdom and Wisdom will always be gracious and peacable to you. And what about talking to someone who is utterly sincere? That’s different, isn’t it? Doesn’t it sound like a description of someone you’d love to get acquainted with?
If you’re trying to understand the nature of wisdom, it is worthwhile to do a word study on it throughout the entire Bible. But for today, I just want to point out the living nature of wisdom. If you are trying to make a decision and there seems to be no life it it, either you are not ready to make the decision or there is no wisdom in it. If you are contemplating a decision that, as you sit with it, it fills you with peace, is open to reason and appears to be life-giving, that is the way of wisdom.
It is always a good idea to get to know Wisdom before your hour of need so that you can recognize her when she comes. Make a friend of Wisdom.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:1-7, ESV