The Simplest Way to Grow in Wisdom (or Foolishness)

What is wisdom?

It’s a word most of us are familiar with, and yet might have trouble defining. It’s also a word we encounter more than a few places in Scripture, but probably most notably in the Book of Proverbs. That’s kind of what the whole book is about:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight… (Prov. 1:1-2).

Throughout the proverbs, we see that wisdom is something to be grown in, sought after, nurtured, and treasured. We see that it’s not only useful, but extraordinarily valuable – so valuable, in fact, that Solomon himself when given the chance to ask God for any single thing, chose wisdom. And the Lord was pleased:

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be (1 Kings 3:10-12).

So, then, what is it?

I’ve always found J.I. Packer to be helpful in this respect, not only in understanding what wisdom is, but what wisdom is not:

According to Packer, wisdom is not “a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next.”

Rather, wisdom is like driving. “What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things and the soundness of your judgment as to what scope a situation gives you… you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation that presents itself. The effect of divine wisdom is to enable you and me to do just that in the actual situations of everyday life.”

So there you go. Wisdom is about reality. It’s about real-life decision-making in real-life situations. And that is, indeed, a powerful thing. So, then, how do you grow in wisdom?

Well, several ways. You grow in wisdom by asking the Lord for it. You grow in wisdom by actually living life and making mistakes. You grow in wisdom by getting older. But there’s one other way to grow in wisdom, and perhaps this is the easiest way of all. You grow in wisdom by hanging out with wisdom. Here again from Proverbs:

Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm (Prov. 13:20).

It’s wonderful to think that wisdom can, and does, actually rub off on you. By the sheer virtue of being around people of wisdom we will grow in our own wisdom. Simple as that. But just because something is simple doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy.

If you trace the proverb back another step, you come to another simple conclusion. If you grow in wisdom by being around people of wisdom, then you must actively choose the people you associate with. And this is where we will likely be stretched, because people of wisdom might not be the people that are the easiest or most convenient to hang out with.

It will mean that we might need to make friends with people out of our own age demographic. That, in order to be around those people, we might have to inconvenience ourselves in order to fit their needs or lifestyle. That we will have to bend our preferences because the pursuit of wisdom is that important.

And then there’s the flipside, because it’s not only that wisdom that rubs off on us. Foolishness does too. So at the same time we are intentionally positioning ourselves in proximity to people of wisdom, we are also intentionally distancing ourselves from foolishness. Neither happens by accident. But both have long term benefits to us.

Let us, then, understand that we are not walking in a vacuum. We are going to be affected by the people around us – whether those people are in the real world or even the virtual one. Let us value wisdom enough to make sure we are making choices to have the right thing rub off on us.

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1 Comment

  • Marjorie Bennett says:

    This is right where I’m at in life; I’ve lost old friends, and now asking God for new ones who can help me along spiritually and practically. Lovely Post, as usual.

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