What is wisdom?

This is a question I’ve been asking lately.

From a future educator’s perspective, I think of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, learning styles, or even knowledge gained from teaching experience. As a daughter, I think of my parents’ wisdom in raising me. As a student, I think of not the concrete lessons learned in school, but the abstract wisdom that has risen from study. Yet of all of these things, I count the concept of wisdom lost without a strong foundation.

A biblegateway search reveals 215 results, the first of which is Eve desiring wisdom in the garden. This idea of searching for wisdom is obviously nothing new. Personally, I think it’s one of those desires instilled somewhere in humanity. Although not everyone seeks wisdom, people can usually see the advantage in being more intelligent, or in having discernment, because it is recognized as a gift.

My go-to for wisdom is the classic example of Solomon. Here’s a guy placed in charge of many people, and instead of letting it go to his head, he realizes the weight of such a responsibility and selflessly desires the greater good. This takes place in 1 Kings 3:4-15 (link to chapter 3) and another account is given in 2 Chronicles 1 . God asks Solomon what he wants, and Solomon says:
“You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” ~1 Kings 3:6-9

A discerning heart. What does that even mean? I would not have connected that specifically with wisdom, if it weren’t for the nice heading on chapter 3 that says “Solomon asks for wisdom.” Let’s look at Solomon’s approach to asking for wisdom.

First of all, I think it’s how he asked. He didn’t start off by asking, but by thanking and acknowledging the good that he had already been given. He noted that his own position was not given to him for any personal merit, but as a blessing to his father, David. Next, he admits the necessity for wisdom. He says he is nothing but a little child, and recognizes the great gift wisdom is that usually is acquired with time and age (definitely something to look forward to with aging, right?!). Thirdly, he doesn’t want it for himself, but for the benefit of others, and ultimately for the credit of God’s name, as Israel is His chosen people.

Think of how this would revolutionize the world if we all sought wisdom? We would be thankful for what we have while acknowledging a need for something/someone outside ourselves. We would respect our elders and cherish them for their value, rather than discarding them for being of a different generation. We would have humility and a sincere regard for others instead of chasing after our own little endeavors. We would inspire people to know God because His wisdom is so contradictory to the wisdom of the world, and so converse to our natural tendencies.

Consider of all the great leaders you know. Why were they great? Why do you admire them? Personally, I think that great leaders all possess wisdom of some sort. They see the big picture idea on a larger scale than the average person, and the foresight to direct others to seeing the same vision. That’s the other part of it- they desire what is better for many people, and spend time serving by caring about people. That kind of service requires humility. No one can sincerely care about others if they are concerned about improving their own reputation or persona. It is through investing in others, abandoning our own agendas, that we begin to shine with God’s kind of wisdom.

I’ve been contemplating this lately because others have been gracious in encouraging me by remarking about how they have found me to be sharing wisdom, while I feel like I am the least qualified person to be known for wisdom. I think we are most effective the more we realize the need for wisdom, and desire to use whatever we have to connect with others. What happened after Solomon requested wisdom? God gave it to him to such a degree that He said there will be no one like him on earth and blessed him with every kind of wealth.

I think that says a lot about how God values us just asking Him for what we need and really seeking after what He has to offer. He has infinite power that we often downplay or ignore. Try asking for wisdom and see what happens. It might surprise you.

“12 Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?13 “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” Job 12:12-13

Job 28:12-28

Proverbs 2

“18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

~1 Corinthians 1:18-21

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