What is wisdom?

Last updated on March 3, 2022

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The Bible gives a very concise answer to this question: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). So, what is wisdom? Wisdom is loving God, loving his Word, and loving His ways. When you do that, you also hate evil.

Wisdom is more important

This biblical definition shows that wisdom is not just knowledge. You can know all the facts, and still do the wrong thing. It is closely connected to making the right choices in life. In this verse we learn that the fear of God is what helps us make these right choices. So it is no surprise to learn that the Bible values wisdom highly. “How much better to get wisdom than gold!”, Proverbs 16:16 says. Money helps us to live as we wish; but wisdom helps us to live as we should. Therefore it is the more important of the two. We are warned not to trust in our own thoughts. It does not come from within us, but we become wise as we listen to God: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD” (Proverbs 3:7); and “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

Studying and listening

The Bible also shows that we can grow in wisdom through studying God’s Word and listening to wise teachers: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser” (Proverbs 9:9). Therefore we are instructed to seek the company of wise people: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20).

Most of the teaching about wisdom in the Bible is in the Old Testament, especially Proverbs. One verse from the New Testament is in James 3:17. It takes us one step further and shows that wisdom closely resembles the description of the fruit from the Holy Spirit that we find in Galatians 5:22: “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”.

Ask God for wisdom

When we read all this about wisdom, we might get discouraged. It seems a high ideal that we can never achieve. Yet the Bible encourages us with the following promise, that encourages us to pray for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

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