Wisdom – The Principal Thing :: by Bud Hancock

Anyone who has read or studied the Bible should be familiar with the book of Proverbs. Penned for the most part by King Solomon, son of King David, this book is known as “The book of wisdom.” When he was anointed king of Israel, Solomon prayed to God for wisdom and God personally answered his prayer by promising him GREAT wisdom. Because Solomon did not ask for great wealth, or any other self-serving rewards, he received exactly what he was promised and throughout history has been regarded as one of the wisest men to ever live.

By writing most of the book of Proverbs, Solomon passed along to us all the great wisdom he received from God. In Proverbs 1:7, it is written, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdomand instruction.”

In Proverbs 9:10 we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. One of the central, recurring themes throughout Proverbs is “the fear of the Lord”, and we are told it equates to “wisdom.” What exactly does Solomon mean by the ‘fear of the Lord?”

The word translated from the passages above as ‘fear’ in English is more appropriately rendered as ‘reverence’. Solomon makes it clear that, in order to receive wisdom, one must first have reverence for the Lord. So, what does it mean to ‘reverence’ someone? According to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, reverence is:

  • A feeling of mingled awe, respect, and admiration; veneration; esteem heightened by awe, as of a superior; reverent regard; especially, such a feeling toward deity.
  • The outward manifestation of reverent feeling; respect, esteem, or honor, as shown by conduct.

As I was growing up, I think this definition sums up the way I felt about my dad. He was such a loving man and father and showed such amazing love toward me that it was easy to return that love to him, with reverence, respect and even awe.

This is the way a man should feel about the Lord God in order to place himself in a position to receive God’s wisdom. In fact, just having this reverence toward God IS the beginning of wisdom. So, having established these basic facts about wisdom, why is it so important?

We are told in Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

In Proverbs 9-11 Solomon adds, “She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. So, not only is the receiver of wisdom promised long life, but an ornament of grace and a crown of glory are also a result of getting wisdom.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said that wisdom comes from God. In James 1:5-8, he said:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

As can be seen from the verses above, the promise of receiving God’s wisdom is conditional. One must ask in faith, believing that he will receive from God. A person who asks and, in his heart does not really expect God to deliver, is considered “unstable” and will receive nothing. Receiving the wisdom of God requires patience and a steadfastness that will be satisfied with nothing less than what has been promised.

However, according to Paul, one who wants to be truly wise must also study The Word. This is totally logical since god has filled His Word with His wisdom. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:15:

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Being able to “rightly divide” the Word of truth is equivalent to having the understanding, or discernment, that Solomon urged us to get, along with wisdom. I have heard it explained that wisdom is the ability to correctly use knowledge. For example, knowledge is the knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing NOT to use a tomato in a fruit salad. A little simplistic, but it emphasizes the point that knowledge, without wisdom, profits very little.

James also stated in chapter 3, verses 13-17:

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

In this passage, the writer clearly indicates that there are two types of wisdom from above; the first being peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. This is the wisdom of God, available to “any man” simply for the asking, when asked in faith.However, the second type of wisdom is “earthly, sensual, devilish.”

This “wisdom” comes from the evil one, the thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy, and it consistently produces envying and strife, leading to confusion and every evil work. Satan is also more than willing to pass along this wisdom, but it is to be avoided by the man or woman of God at any cost.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Since all Scripture is inspired by The Holy Spirit, it is very important to know exactly what God says on any subject and pay close attention to it.From even a casual reading of God’s Word, it is easy to see that God considers a wise man to be the opposite of a fool.

It is written in Psalm 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

I remember a Bible teacher saying many years ago, “Find out everything the Bible says about a fool, and do the opposite.” I’m sure you’ve known at least a few fools in your lifetime; I know that I have. These are the saddest individuals you will encounter. They may exhibit some of the “earthly, sensual and devilish” wisdom from time to time, but will never be able to show true wisdom.

Being fools, they have already said in their hearts, “there is no god” and have prevented the entry of true godly wisdom into their lives. In most cases, they don’t even know that they are fools, and would be unaware, for the most part, that others consider them to be fools. They go on their way, living the lives of foolish people who, unless they are reached by believers, anointed with the Holy Spirit to “preach the gospel to the poor,” they will someday wake up and realize their lives have been wasted. What a shame to have lived one’s entire life, never having known anything but the life of a fool.

God certainly does not want this for anyone, and He provides the wisdom we need to be able to reach out to those who are caught in Satan’s “trap of fools.” Once the devil has a person so caught in this trap, being a “fool” but thinking he is “wise,” the only hope for that person is to encounter a man or woman who, being filled with the Spirit, can break that trap and pull him back from the fire.

Since the Church—the Body of Christ, is to be doing the same work that Jesus did in his earthly ministry, it is critical to understand how Jesus accomplished that work. He had the wisdom of God, even as a young man, and according to Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Jesus also had the anointing of the Holy Spirit without measure. He was never stumped, or caught off guard by those who sought to trap him in His words, but was aware of their evil intents and was able to stop them every time. Had this not been the case, His ministry would not have had the impact it did.

However, Jesus, in His earthly ministry was only one man and was therefore limited in his ability to spread the gospel to the entire world. He trained His disciples to follow Him and expected them to train others so that, in time, the world would know the truth and be freed from sin and its consequences.

Since the Body of Christ is the means by which Jesus is now conducting His ministry here on earth, it is imperative that, to the extent possible, we function in the same wisdom and anointing that He had. Without that wisdom and anointing, we will most certainly fail in our attempt to fulfill the Great Commission.

This is why God urges us to seek, and ask for, wisdom from God. This is why it is written that “WISDOM IS THE PRINCIPAL THING.”