Wisdom is an important concept in the Holy Bible, appearing 234 times in 222 verses of the King James Version. Wisdom, may be defined as the ability to make good decisions using knowledge, and one of the great men of the Bible, King Solomon, was known for his great God given wisdom.
Solomon received his wisdom after he asked God for grace to judge God’s people so that he may be a good ruler. As First Kings 3:6-12 records:
“… Solomon said, You have shown to Your servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before You in truth and in righteousness and in uprightness of heart with You. And You have kept this great kindness for him, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today.
And now, O Jehovah my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father. And I am a little child; I do not know to go out or come in! And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a numerous people who cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
And give to Your servant an understanding heart, to judge Your people, to discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this, Your great people?
And the word was good in the eyes of Jehovah, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, and have not asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to judge justly, behold, I have done according to your words. Lo, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like you before you, and after you none shall arise like you.'”
How great was this give of divine wisdom which God bestowed on King Solomon? First Kings 4:28-34 says of it:
“And God gave Solomon exceeding great wisdom and understanding, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the sons of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt.
For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame was in all nations all around. And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five.
And he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree in Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fish.
And there came from all the people, to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”
Solomon’s wisdom was such that he was a legend in his own lifetime; his exceptional wisdom was recognised throughout the whole of the known world of that time. As a result of Solomon’s modesty and humility in asking God for a gift of discern between good and bad and to judge, so that he may rule and judge God’s people in a fair and righteous manner, the Lord also blessed Solomon with uncountable wealth.
In the New Testament, in James 3:13-18, we have a teaching especially for us on Wisdom. Here James explains simply and clearly what is expected of all mature Christians; first explaining what wisdom is for us, then outlining eight characteristics of human wisdom, then eight characteristics of divine wisdom, so we may be enlightened to the ways of God for us.
Let us start with the teaching of James in James 3:13 as he asks:
“Who is wise and knowing among you? Let him show his works by his good conversation with meekness of wisdom.”
A wise man, as James says, is a man who can bridle his own tongue and is qualified to teach others. The words for ‘good conversation’ can also be translated as ‘good conduct’ or ‘good life in his works’ or ‘good deportment.’ In other words, a wise man and therefore true wisdom, is a reflection of his actions and character, as other see him, not just that which he talks. First Timothy 4:12-13 also speaks to the characteristic of a wise Christian saying “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity …. attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching.”
Similarly, the Christian wise man is imbued with humility. Regarding humility and pride, Proverbs 11:2 speaks to this saying “Pride comes, then shame comes; but with the lowly is wisdom” and in 13:10, “Only by pride comes argument, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
Prideful, overbearing and disdainful men may pass as scholars with learning, but these men, despite their protestations, do not have wisdom as God defines wisdom.
Of human wisdom, James warns us to be aware and alert, saying in James 3:13-16
“But if you have bitter jealousy and strife in your hearts, do not glory and lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom coming down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every foul deed.”
What are the eight characteristics of human wisdom?
- Bitter jealousy.
- Strife in your heart.
- Glorifying yourself by and in, what you say.
- Earthly: with a world view, not a Kingdom view.
- Sensual: living only to satisfy the lusts of the flesh.
- Devilish: living under the influence of the demonic, not God.
- Confused: living in doubt and in two minds, being double-minded.
- Committing evil: not living by God’s laws and commandments.
By comparison, in James 3:17-18, James lays out the characteristics of a Godly and divine wisdom as he writes:
“But the wisdom that is from above is first truly pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
By comparison, what are the eight characteristics of divine wisdom?
- Pure: It is chaste, it is holy, it is clean.
- Peaceable: As Hebrews 12:14 says of this: “Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord …”
- Gentle: Meek, modest, kind.
- Easily entreated: Not stubborn or obstinate but teachable and yielding to others.
- Full of mercy: Always forgiving and performing acts of kindness without expectancy of reward.
- Full of Good Fruit: As Galatians 5:22-23 says for Godly and Christian fruit: “… the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control …”
- Without partiality: Having no respect of persons or position. As James 2:1 says “My brothers, do not have the faith of our Lord Christ, the Lord of glory, with respecter of faces” or simply, “… don’t treat some people better than others.”
- Without hypocrisy: Open, honest, genuine and true; without pretence or duplicity.
Solomon asked for and was granted wisdom. Does God still grant such prayer requests today? Certainly yes! Can we gain wisdom on our own? Certainly yes!
The book of Proverbs is often referred to as ‘wisdom literature.’ The books of Job, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are similarly classified, while certain Psalms are known as ‘wisdom psalms’. By studying these and learning these, we can have within us the Wisdom of God which the Holy Spirit can help us draw upon when we need it. Remember, what we have not read or learnt, the Holy Spirit cannot draw out from us when we need it.
The proverbs of the Book of Proverbs, were seen at its time of compilation and writing, as being eternal truths for mankind. For many good reasons, Scholars doubt that Solomon personally wrote all the Proverbs, but was the collector of them. Nevertheless, for us as Christians, they, and the other Biblical wisdom literature, do in fact provide a God given source of wisdom related to the eternal truths of mankind. What is more, we can learn them with a little effort!