So how does one enrol as an apprentice in the School of Divine Wisdom? The Bible tells us there are a few prerequisites.
The first one is found in Proverbs 4:7: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
The first time I really paid attention to this verse, I thought, “Are you serious? Thanks for the detailed map to wisdom you’ve drawn for us there, Solomon!”
But I have finally come to understand the brilliance of this succinct piece of advice. Solomon is saying that if you want to find wisdom, you have to want her. Really want her.
The pursuit of wisdom begins with recognizing and appreciating her true value. Wisdom is far more valuable than gold, silver, diamonds and pearls. Getting wisdom is better than winning the lottery. Nothing you desire can compare with her, Solomon says. When you finally behold her incredible beauty and worth, you will seek her no matter the cost.
If wisdom is someone you are kind of interested in and seek in your spare time—as long as it’s not too inconvenient, expensive or demanding—you will not find her. To be frank, you don’t deserve her. However, if you truly desire wisdom, you will get her! Because you will do whatever it takes to find her: Use however much time and energy are required, make whatever sacrifices are necessary, be willing to chase dead ends and fail a thousand times along the way. You will chase wisdom like Thomas Edison chased his dream of creating the first practical incandescent light bulb, which he later described as “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Why would anyone pursue wisdom the way Edison pursued the light bulb? Or the way NHL players chase the Stanley Cup? Why? Because she is worth it. She is worth far more than gaining a reputation as one of the greatest inventors in history or winning the most stunning sports trophy the human eye has ever seen.
The way we pursue wisdom must reflect her true worth. When it does, we will find her. This is the first step on the path towards wisdom.
A second prerequisite is found in the Book of James. It is faith.
James 1:5-6 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
James tells us that if we need wisdom all we have to do is ask God for her. Of course, this means we need to pray. We need to connect, converse and commune with God, who is the source of all wisdom. Prayer is absolutely essential.
However, what is most interesting to me in this passage is that James clarifies what is not a prerequisite for receiving wisdom. He says, “God who gives generously to all without finding fault.” You don’t need to have your stuff together before you ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is not given to people who deserve her or earn her. God does not give you wisdom because of who you are. God gives you wisdom because of who God is, namely, generous to all.
The truth is, God wants to give you wisdom. One reason for this is because God knows it is only by gaining wisdom that we will be able to make better choices that in turn make the world a better place for ourselves, others and the rest of creation. God knows we need wisdom to figure out how to walk in freedom from the seductive tyranny of sin and selfishness. It is only by wisdom that we can understand which of our faults we need to work on and which of our faults we must simply accept.
Our faults don’t disqualify us from receiving wisdom. They are why we need it!
James continues: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
So it is not our shortcomings, our sinfulness or our messed-up lives that prevent God from giving us wisdom. It is our doubt.
To be continued . . . .
Troy Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, Ont.