Why (not) wisdom?

Something has begun to stir up in my heart recently. I want to build my life upon it. Here it is: it is more desirable to possess wisdom, the Scriptures say, than any other thing. Seek wisdom more than riches, Solomon urges. Treasure her above pleasure. Prefer her over power. If we earnestly meditate on this, we realize that God has a very high regard for wisdom. He delights in it. He desires it from us as His children. This is serious.

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And it brings up a question: why do we, His children, not hunger more for it?

It is a strange thing: most people will speak of wisdom as a virtue, but if we are honest, so few actively seek it or measure their lifestyle by it. It is ‘optional’ – for the over-achievers. Why? Perhaps it is a symptom of the world we live in, a world where foolishness is promoted in many spheres (wise consumers\voters are not as easy to exploit). Maybe it is propagated by all our broken families that just don’t have the capacity or context for nurturing wisdom. Maybe it is also a fault of the church – in general focusing so much on getting us all out of hell and into ‘heaven’ one day – and neglecting to teach the practical stuff you find in Proverbs. There are probably many different reasons we don’t care about whether we are living wisely, or about how to grow in wisdom. Perhaps we don’t know why we should care. Riches, pleasure and power seem far more desirable. Even to Christians who read Proverbs and agree with what it says. Help me out here.

What is it that *should* make wisdom so desirable to us?

And if you had to try and convince another brother or sister about the importance of this issue, how would you try to explain it to them?

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9 thoughts on “Why (not) wisdom?

  1. Some reasons why wisdom is desirable:
    Wisdom enables us to make those decisions and choices dealing with our circumstances that best take into account all the related issues. It enables the ability to think ahead and seek the most appropriate solution to a problem. It helps to find ways out of seemingly impenetrable jungle with no apparent paths.

    More importantly, it better equips us to serve God, apply his precepts, and follow his will.

    • And as a capstone to all of these motivations is the fact that wisdom leads to life. Real life. Like the “abundant life” Jesus came to give. In short: I think wisdom opens doors to a whole new realm of experiencing the goodness of God.
      Who wouldn’t want that?

      • I love that you summarize it like that. I agree – who wouldn’t want that? But then what is the answer to my other question – why are we not (in general) drawn to wisdom more strongly? It appears to me that many times we consider ourselves okay because we are not doing anything exceptionally foolish, but wisdom is surely so much more than lack of stupid mistakes in our lives. It is, as you say, abundant life that can be pushed into more and more…

        • To approach your question, I wonder if it would help to contrast wisdom with knowledge? Knowledge is cheap compared to wisdom. Learning something about almost anything is just a Google search away. People tend to look for instant gratification and especially in the fast food world we live in we’re quite used to getting what we want, when we want it. Being knowledgable and appearing smart (if you can pull it off) is also a quick way of impressing others and getting a kick out of it. It’s a shortcut to acquiring a sense of value and self worth.

          Wisdom on the other hand is not cheap and much harder to acquire. It’s quite an investment and I personally feel that it is an investment in a relationship. A relationship with our Father who is the source of all wisdom whom, we know, the world has rejected. Perhaps that is why we’re not generally drawn to it? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting knowledge off at all. I just think that in a fallen state it is easier to rely on one’s own intellect to solve problems and be self sufficient rather than to humbly rely on God for wisdom.

          • Henk

            I love your response. I think you hit on some great points. Particularly the relational aspect of wisdom—compared to the grab-and-go philosophy usually associated with acquiring knowledge.

            JC

            Sorry for the delay in responding. I had originally typed up a long reply and then it got deleted when the page reloaded. Needless to say, I was too frustrated to regurgitate my thoughts.

            Well… weeks have passed, so I suppose I’ll give it a quick go again. 😉

            I think we’re not drawn to wisdom because (in my mind) wisdom is boring. Plain as that. It represents doing what you know to be right even in a situation where another alternative is more desirable. If in trying situations I found God’s way more desirable I’m sure I’d have more of an affinity to wisdom, but because I’m not at that level of maturity yet, I don’t. How’s that? 😉

  2. KenGuy,

    I agree, wisdom helps us to weigh, and discern solutions to, complex issues. And here’s the thing: we all struggle with complex issues, and we all want please God, but… we don’t all hunger for wisdom. Why not? Is it an issue of the type of gospel/doctrine people are receiving? Is it an issue of how church communities are structured and interact? Is it a lack of spirituality in us as individuals? How do we grow this desire in ourselves and others?

  3. Henk,

    Thanks for commenting. Isn’t it interesting how we judge each other by what we say rather than what we do? We admire those who have answers, even if they don’t live them. We think of knowledge as facts and information instead of as experience. We are more impressed by a confident hypocrite with a smooth tongue than a stuttering, unassuming person that makes good choices and navigates life skillfully. Christendom has often been more obsessed with creeds than conduct. What I hear you saying is that wisdom cannot flourish in a persons heart if they are operating from a place of insecurity and self consciousness, because there are much less costly ways to feel better about yourself in the world much more quickly – like impressing people.

    Do you think one of the reasons people don’t desire wisdom then is because they are too busy seeking and fighting for the more immediate needs of affirmation and identity? Maybe a desire for wisdom flows from a place where these needs are met first…

  4. KL,

    First you say wisdom leads to fullness of life, then you say its boring?! I am struggling to put those two together. That sounds like a view of righteousness that is dutiful – almost stoic. I guess temptation does present itself as exciting. But then we are specifically looking at wisdom as the opposite of sin. So like… I am tempted to get drunk and do crazy fun stuff with my friends, but then I (full of wisdom) choose to rather stay at home and watch tv? I get that, but like you say maturity gives us the perspective to see these temptations for what they are.

    But what about if we rather defined wisdom as the opposite of boring? What about if wise people WERE the creatives, the funny people, the elegantly dressed people, the happy people? What if wisdom was less about resisting sin and more about pushing into glory?

    • If that were the case, I’d be thrilled. But as you can see, in my own life (and those around me), that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      And I think you note the tension with which I talk about wisdom: leading to life in all its fullness, yet somehow boring. lol Thanks for pressing me on this. I could’ve been more clear.

      What I mean is that IN THEORY I know that wisdom leads to life and more life; but IN PRAXIS, it doesn’t FEEL this way most of the time, EVEN THOUGH I know in REALITY it is doing this—it is just leading me into a new kind of life that I am slowing orienting my “new pleasure sensors” towards.

      Does that make more sense? I guess it could be put another way: it’s the difference between “denotation” and “connotation”. I know what wisdom does (i.e. leads to life), but this isn’t how it always feels (i.e. humdrum boring). It’s the classic dual of head and heart I suppose.

      But like I said, wisdom is growing on me, as I think it should. More and more I can appreciate its effects and be more succumbed by its appeals. But I think people most grow into a love of wisdom—and I’m just not there yet. 😉

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