Wisdom: Skill at Living Life
There are all kinds of promoters of wisdom in our world. You can find self-help books or YouTube videos on just about any subject. Self-proclaimed experts abound. But, as followers of God, we are seeking a particular kind of wisdom - His. The Hebrew word for wisdom implies that it is skill at living life.
And there are three types of wisdom-related skills God says we need and He gives*:
The first is technical ability.
In Exodus 28:3, God gave specific instruction for the making of sacred garments for the high priest to wear while performing his duties in the tabernacle. This is what he says about those who will create these vestments, “Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make the garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.” Did you catch that? God gave wisdom in the form of a creative skill. The same concept is repeated for those who were to build the physical tabernacle and its furnishings when Moses says, “He has filled them with wisdom of heart and ability to do all manner of craftsmanship, of the engraver, of the skillful workman, of the embroiderer in blue, purple, and scarlet and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of those who do or design any skilled work” (Exodus 35:35 Amplified Bible).
Artists, carpenters, and sculptors must understand the substances with which they are working. Wisdom is required to know how something should look, how it will best function, and how to form it into something beautiful and/or useful. This kind of wisdom is needed particularly for scientists, artists, musicians, mathematicians, organizers.
The second is administrative ability.
We see an example of this in Scripture when the people of Israel were taking so much of Moses’ time that he had to select others to govern with him. In Deuteronomy 1:15a, Moses explains to the people what he did, “So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you. . .”
Jesus is described as having the same kind of administrative wisdom in Isaiah 11:2-4a, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
Administrative wisdom is having the skill to judge what’s right or wrong and even to see beneath the surface of what is said. This type of wisdom is needed for those in roles of authority: judges, friends, governmental officials, parents, counselors, church leaders, and business executives, to name a few.
The third is social ability.
Proverbs 25:6-11 is just one of the passages in Proverbs that gives specific instructions for how the young people in training are to act in the king’s court, behave at a public dinner, settle legal matters, and guard their speech. These are all matters of social propriety and of getting along with others in this world.
This wisdom includes speaking well, handling finances, resolving conflict, and having friendships. Fortunately for us, the Bible gives very specific instruction for putting wisdom to work in these kinds of settings and relationships.
Conclusion: Wisdom is both practical and necessary. And God’s way of wisdom is the way that works best in the world He created. Why? Because wisdom is part of creation itself. It is the way the world works! “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundation, by understanding he set the heavens in place” (Proverbs 3:19). Wisdom is part of the order of the cosmos and, as such, does not change with time, with cultures, or with geographical settings.
The wisdom contained in the Bible is as old as creation itself and as vital as life itself. It is the way God designed the world to work. It is logical, then, that long life, good relationships, personal peace, and even prosperity will more likely occur if we seek to understand and follow the cosmic order set in place at the time of creation.
"Wisdom in scripture is, broadly speaking, the knowledge of God's world and the knack of fitting oneself into it." - Cornelius Plantinga
*Waltke, Bruce K., audio lecture series entitled “The Book of Proverbs”, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Institute of Theological Studies, 1986, Lecture #3.