The Way of Wisdom
A short preface for today. We are going to be talking about wisdom. And I’m really excited to be sharing with you all about wisdom because it has been something that God has been showing me and been just on my mind and my heart constantly for probably the past six months. And specifically, in the wisdom books of scripture, which include Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, and the Song of Solomon. So, there are five books. And if you open your Bibles, they’ll be right in the middle of them. All have a unique light that they share or show on wisdom, but for brevity’s sake, as well as your own, we are only going to be in the book of Proverbs or mainly in the book of Proverbs today. And what you need to know about the book of Proverbs is, Proverbs is written by King Solomon, who is widely regarded as the wisest man who ever lived.
And what he’s doing in the book of Proverbs is instructing his sons on how to live and constantly throughout the book, he warns them of the pitfalls or different mistakes that they can make in life. And he tries to guide them so that they may live lives that are flourishing good lives instead of having their lives ensnared by life’s many traps. And the stakes are set up throughout the book of Proverbs repeated time and time again, but Proverbs 8:32-36 sums it up I believe really, really well. And Solomon, he writes from his own perspective, but also from wisdom’s perspective and he personifies wisdom, and he says it like this to his sons. “Now then sons, listen to me for blessed are those who keep my ways, listen to instruction and be wise and do not neglect it. Blessed is the person who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, watching at my door posts. For one who finds me, finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But one who sins against me, injures himself. All those who hate me love death.”
So what are the stakes of knowing wisdom or being wise or not? Proverbs, the Bible makes it clear time and time again, those who find wisdom, find life and those who reject wisdom and embrace foolishness love death. So when you read this, we need to understand that the stakes are life and death, our lives hang in the very balance of knowing wisdom or foolishness. And we may live in a different time, under very different circumstances with different technology and a different culture, but we still inhabit the same world and we’re still human beings, just like Solomon sons were. And we like them have the same weaknesses and can fall into the same pitfalls and have the same shortcomings.
And we can see this proverb work itself out in our own lives. People who make foolish decisions, they find themselves in very bad circumstances. They love death as opposed to the wise who love life. And my suggestion is that if Proverbs is true in declaring that those who find wisdom find life, and those who love foolishness find death, then it is of utmost importance that we listen to the words of Proverbs and understand what the book of Proverbs has to say.
And it also makes sense why the Bible would dedicate five of its 66 books to this idea of wisdom to guide us through life’s maze and help us make decisions. So we understand the stakes, but we have to understand what wisdom is to be wise, right? And for the past several months, I’ve been asking different people because it’s been on my mind. What do you think wisdom is? And I’ve gotten several or quite a few different answers with a lot of similarities, but a few differences. So, so that we’re all on the same page. I want to use the definition and we’ll use it all together for the sake of today. And what I came across is that wisdom is the skill of making the right decision.
Wisdom is having sound judgment, of course, but being wise is surely just not knowing what the right thing or the wrong thing is, but it is having the skill in resolve to do it. Because no matter how good your reasoning or your intelligence or perception is, if you still choose the wrong decision, even though you knew what the right one is, that is obviously foolishness, you’re wasting your knowledge.
For example, a new driver like myself, when I was 16, understands that their car needs oil, right? They know it, but until they put that knowledge, until they apply that knowledge, their car might break down because it’s out of oil, right? So if they do not put that into practice, the consequence is a foolishness results in a broken-down vehicle with not replacing the oil. And it’s easy to understand how much bearing this has on our lives, making the right decisions versus making the wrong decisions because our lives are not just filled with decisions. We don’t just react, but we also act, our lives are not just filled with decisions. They are built and made by the decisions that we choose.
Our decision-making skills are put on trial of every moment of every day, by what we do and what we do not do, by what we say and what we do not say, what we plan on doing and what we do not plan on doing, the dreams we dream, the relationships we build or the relationships we neglect. The time we invest, the desires that we have, we all are putting our wisdom to the test every day, building our lives with the brick and mortar of wisdom.
And the house and life you build with wisdom will either stand the test of time or will crumble into obscurity. That is the warning from Proverbs 14:11-12, that says, “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright shall flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in its end is the way of death.” Now, when I was thinking about this, I was like, man, this is a little overwhelming. You’re saying every single thing has to do with wisdom. And this is the life and death situation. That is a really overwhelming thing because yes, I can be wise in a few areas of life, but there’s so many different areas of life that there are. Life is so multifaceted. We have so many components that need mastery, whether it’s our work, being wise in our work, being wise in our relationship, being wise in our finances, being wise when we’re at school and academia or in our free time or the raising of kids, or even the things that we eat or our sleep schedules all require wisdom because they’re all decisions and parts of our lives.
But fortunately for us, we have the scriptures to guide us. Proverbs 2:6 says this, “For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” And although we might be overwhelmed, we have the scriptures to go to. And so let’s go to three different scriptures in the book of Proverbs. And these three different scriptures are warnings from Solomon to his sons about what the fool’s life looks like or what a fool looks like. So the first one we’re going to call the foolish thief and Proverbs 1:10-19 says this, “My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give into them. If they say, come along with us, let us lie and wait for innocent blood. Let’s ambush some harmless soul. Let’s swallow them alive like the grave and whole like those who go down to the pit, we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our house with plunder. Cast lots with us and we will share the loot. My son do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths for their feet rush into evil. They are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net where every bird can see? These men line wait for their own blood and ambush only themselves. Such are the paths of all those who are after ill-gotten gain. It takes away the life of those who get it.”
And that is the warning, the story of the foolish thief. The next proverb, Proverbs 5:3-8 is the story of the foolish adulterer or the warning of the foolish adulterer. This is what Solomon says, “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end, she’s as bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword, her feet go down to death, her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life, her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.” That is the story of the foolish adulterer.
And the next one, Proverbs 6:6-11 says, “Go to the ant you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler yet it stores its provision in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” All right. So I went through these passages really quickly, three different examples of three different types of fools. The foolish thief, the foolish adulterer, the lazy fool. Can’t say foolish, lazy person. That’s weird. The differences in these stories are very interesting, but I think the similarities are what we can really learn from. The first similarity that you find between all these three stories is the stakes, the things that we’ve been talking about, what happens when they commit this foolish act?
What does the result lie in? Right? The foolish thief. These men lie and wait for their own blood. They ambush only themselves. The foolish adulterer, her feet go down to death. The lazy fool, poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. The stakes are that they’re going to have a rude awakening. Their life is going to be taken away from them. Second, they’re all relatable to us because we’re human. And just like them, we’ve experienced similar desires. If you read those, they all have a through-line of what they want, what they desire that we can all understand because we’re human. They want material comfort. The thief wants material comfort. He wants things. And that’s why he goes and robs. He wants wealth. The foolish adulterer is experiencing sexual temptation and the lazy person wants to rest, wants to be lazy. I can definitely relate to that.
But their desires are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but it’s the way in which they seek their desires, which is foolish. Proverbs shares many stories in Proverbs of the benefits of having wealth and even talks about how you should go about gaining wealth, right? It’s not saying that wealth itself is a bad thing or desiring wealth is a bad thing, but the way in which they went about it was wrong. The Song of Solomon, the fifth book on wisdom found in scriptures is all about the beauty of intimate relationship that God created.
And rest was first instituted by God on the seventh day. And he created the Sabbath for people to rest. So all of these things are good, but the way in which the fool seeks it, results in death. So what did they all do wrong? How did they go about it which is wrong? They all went about it the same way. They all took shortcuts through God’s plan and they sacrificed their future for their present. That’s what it means to be foolish. The fool has no thoughts on how their present actions affect their future prospects. They are carried away and led away by every desire that comes into their heart. They are short-sighted and blind to their future decisions and make them because they desire them right now. And that is why there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end, leads to death.
Inversely, wisdom is far sighted. It looks ahead. And the wise man, instead of sacrificing their future for the present, the wise man sacrifices his present for the future. And more precisely sacrifices his present desires for his future rewards. And this is not something that’s revolutionary. I’m sure that every single one of you out here actually knows this. And I’ll demonstrate that by a short quiz of who the wise and who the foolish person is and see how well you guys do. If you guys do well and you’re like, “Yes, I’m wise.” Not necessarily, but we’ll go on. Says who’s the wise person, who’s the fool? The girl who studies or the girl who cheats on the test?
All right. It’s all right. You don’t have to say it. I know what you guys are all thinking. It is the wise person who studies. But think about Lincoln. What if it’s the ACT and this is the most important test they’re ever going to take in their lives. And this depends on scholarships. This depends on what school they go to. And if they cheat just once, they’ll save a bunch of money in the future, and then they’ll be able to go to college and have way more job prospects, because they go to Harvard instead of, I don’t know, I’m not going to slam any school. I was about to do that. What if that the person who teaches is still thinking about the future, but they’re still thinking shortsighted because what’s going to happen when they go to a school that they cheated in to get?
They’re going to have to cheat more to maintain the grades that they couldn’t get for that test. And even if they somehow they don’t get caught cheating at that school, they’re going to get hired onto a job that they are ill suited for. And in the end, their foolishness will catch up to them. Who is wise and who is foolish? The guy who eats at McDonald’s every day or the person who makes for himself healthy food? Obviously, obviously, right? Who is wise? The guy who exercises in his free time or the guy who only plays video games with his free time? Who is wise, the girl who saves her money and invests, or the girl who spends everything, her paycheck, every time she gets it? It’s obvious who the wise person is and who the foolish person is because their actions and maybe their small sacrifices result in some sort of payoff or future reward, they sacrifice their present for their future. And that’s what makes them wise.
And this is not a secret. And I want to further demonstrate this about with the fiction that we consume, the fiction that we either watch, or we read. Who are the characters in the stories that embody or represent wisdom? I can think of several. There’s Gandalf. There’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. There is Dumbledore. There’s Mr. Miyagi. There’s Oogway from Kung Fu Panda. They all share something in common. Yes, they’re all old. And a lot of them are wizards for some reason. They all teach the hero to be wise. But there is always a moment in each one of their stories in which they make a decision, impart wisdom, or make a sacrifice that seems entirely foolish at the time to either the audience or to both the audience and the hero. But in the end, their sacrifice, the wisdom that they gave that seemed like foolishness turns out to be the reason why the hero succeeds. In every single one of these movies, in every single part of fiction, it happens. Listen, real quick, Gandalf, he sends a hobbit, which is the weakest creature in middle earth to defeat the most powerful Sauron.
And even Gandalf sacrifices himself for the fellowship in Moria and he dies. And because of his wisdom, they end up winning. Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrifices his life. And I remember being a kid and watching that and like, “Why did he just give up?” But what is he able to do? He’s enabled to instruct Luke into destroy the death star. And otherwise the rebel alliance would have been destroyed. He sacrifices himself. Same thing with Dumbledore, those who watch Harry Potter, Dumbledore sacrifices himself so he, who mustn’t be named gets defeated in the end. And Mr. Miyagi gives advice or teaches Daniel LaRusso, the famous wax on wax off, right? If you’ve watched the Karate Kid, you won’t forget that. And what does Daniel think during the time? “This guy’s just using me, he’s not actually teaching me karate. This is such junk. This is foolishness. I’m not learning anything here.” And of course what he does pays off. In the end, he realizes he actually knows karate from waxing on and off.
It’s always a result in a sacrifice in the present that pays off. Even with Kung Fu Panda and master Oogway too. And it’s not just fiction that teaches us this lesson, but it’s also the fairytales we’ve listened to as a kid. My favorite example of this is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. And when you’re a kid and even perhaps now, and me until recently believed that it was just about lying. But the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is actually really interesting because in the story, why does the boy lie? Have you ever asked that question? Why does the boy lie? Maybe that’s a little more complicated than what it’s meant to be, but why does the boy lie in The Boy Who Cried Wolf? He wants attention. He wants everyone to listen to him. And because of that, everyone comes up to him and he’s like, “What are you doing?” And he’s like, “Oh man, I’m getting attention. Everyone’s listening to me.”
And he does that time and time again, so that people will listen to him. What he does is he sacrifices future trust for present attention. And because of that, the lie catches up to him and devours him in the end. It sounds like a proverb, does it not? All those who hate me or all those who hate me love death. And you may be thinking, why are you coming up with so many examples? Why are you sharing from scripture, from fiction, from fairytales? Well, first of all, I think it’s important that we understand this principle because our lives hang in the balance of us understanding it. But secondly, it illustrates my second point. So I get to kill two birds with one stone here.
Now, reading Proverbs 1:20-23, “Out in the open wisdom calls a loud. She raises her voice in the public square. On top of the wall she cries out. At the city gate she makes her speech. How long will you love your simple ways? How long will your mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge, repent at my rebuke. Then I will pour out my thoughts to you. And I will make known to you my teaching.”
Wisdom screams at us. It’s everywhere. And the problem with us knowing wisdom is not that we do not hear what wisdom says. It’s the fact that we do not listen. The person who is foolish usually knows what they’re doing is right or wrong. The thing is doing the right thing as opposing to the wrong thing is often difficult. And the problem is, is that we are much too shortsighted and often overcome what our minds know to be true. Wisdom makes herself known everywhere. And the world is built on the foundations and principles of wisdom. That’s also what Proverbs says, and its ways cannot be ignored if your eyes are open, but people still love being foolish.
People choose to be foolish. And here’s a simple way to remember what Proverbs 1:20-23 is saying, “The problem is not that the fool is ignorant. The problem with foolishness is often arrogance.” Foolishness is a problem of arrogance, not of ignorance because we choose the foolish thing. We do it because we believe in some way we are special or exempt from the rules of wisdom. We believe the lie that we are in control or that we are different or stronger or better than the people who have fallen in foolishness. Most people know what drugs can do to you. Most people know the effects of, or the consequences of committing adultery. Most people know what can happen if you are lazy all the time. Most people know the effects of pornography. Most people know that lies will one day catch up to them. So why do people still choose to do them? And the simple answer is pride. We think we know better than God. We believe we are exempt from the rule of wisdom and we know what is best for us.
And that God, in some way, is holding out on us or in some way is a kill joy. And that is why we so often love being foolish. And this is why the proverb says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Because fearing the Lord means you recognizing him as Lord. And as your judge, not yourself as your Lord and judge. It is a submission to God’s wisdom and not your own wisdom. For God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
So we have covered quite a few things here, a brief recap, we’ve covered the stakes of being wise and being foolish. We covered what wisdom is, the skill of making the right decision. We’ve covered the principle of wisdom, which is sacrificing the present for the future. And the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of us being wise, which is pride or being proud, our ego. And I appreciate you guys’ attention throughout this time. You guys have been a great audience, but now we are going to transition into the most important part of this lesson. And I ask that you pay attention just a little longer. Because when I started reading the wisdom books, they captured me, but little did I understand how much wisdom went hand in hand with the gospel. In fact, they go seamlessly together.
What is it that keeps people from accepting the gospel? What is the greatest obstacle for accepting the gospel? Is the same thing that keeps people from being wise. See you cannot become wise in and of yourself. You must fear the Lord. You must submit to him for there’s a way that seems right to a man but in the end, it leads to death. Your wisdom will fail in the same way that you cannot save yourself. You cannot accomplish the righteousness of God. You need the word of God for wisdom and the gospel. And in the gospel’s case, you need the word of God made flesh.
And the problem with people has always been arrogance. What blinds people the most is their need for the gospel and the pride of believing they have no use for it, that they have earned God’s favor through their works. But in reality, their works only produce a nearness to a God of their own making, a God of their own design otherwise known as idolatry. Read with me what Paul says in Romans 1:21-23, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. But their thinking became futile. And then their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
They rejected God and made one to suit their own desires, not out of ignorance, but out of arrogance, they knew God. To believe the gospel and to become wise, you must admit that you are wrong or lacking. Both wisdom and the gospel call for repentance. Remember what Proverbs 1:23 says, if you want to go back to that real quick, it says, “Repent at my rebuke then I will pour out my thoughts to you.” A change of heart, a change of mind, you must repent, for your works cannot pay for your sin. Only the blood of Christ can make you clean. That your way is not the way, both take a submission to God’s word and his will. And that can be a terrifying place. Why?
Because it removes the trust that we have in ourselves and it places it on the Lord. But when we place our trust on the Lord for his wisdom, his will, who he is. That is what ultimately what lasts. Then that is why the proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.” Have you ever wondered why it was the religious leaders who rejected Jesus and the lowly who accepted him? That prostitutes, the tax collectors. They’re the ones who recognized who Jesus was. Why did Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s because on one side, the Pharisees, the religious leaders had pride blinding their eyes and every action. And they did not recognize Jesus not because they did not know about the Messiah or what the Messiah would do or who he was going to be. But because the Messiah was stealing the attention and praise that they thought that they deserved and that they earned. And that is why they rejected him.
Wisdom and the gospel are only received in humility. And not only do we receive it in the same way, but only through the gospel can anyone be truly wise. I’ll read the next verse that I have. This is a parable of Jesus that he says in Luke 12:16-21. And he says this, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. And he thought to himself, what shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. Then he said, this is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. There I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years, take life easy, drink, eat, drink, and be merry.” Stop right there. This guy, he knows what’s up. He’s being wise. He’s planning for the future. He’s got this bumper crop. He’s going to build bigger barns. He’s planning for the future. But what does Jesus say immediately after that?
“But God said to him, you fool, this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God. See, the difference between the world’s wisdom and between the wisdom of God is that is not that the principal changes, but the worldly wisdom, the future is 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now. But the godly person, the future is eternity because eternity is what lasts. This life does not.
Therefore Jesus says, store your treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy. That is a call to wisdom. The wise man builds his house on the rock. And the foolish man builds his house on the sand. I’m telling you guys right now, I would rather live on a beach than on a rock, sand in between my toes, the ocean breeze coming out. But what makes that foolish is because one day, since you’re living on the beach, there will be a storm. It’s maybe not today, it’s maybe not tomorrow. It’s maybe not for five years, but one day there will be a storm and your house will not last because it is not built on a firm enough foundation. And who is the rock in which we build our foundation on? It’s on the only one that will last. It’s on Jesus. Because one day we will all face the storm and face death. And only Jesus is the rock that saves us into eternity.
And this is of course why Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says this. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our low light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” See the gospel and wisdom are inseparable. And in Jesus, we see wisdom perfected. Why did he go to the cross? Why did he place himself under the wrath of God? Remember the garden of Gethsemane where he said, “Not my will be done, but your will be done.” Hebrews 12 says, “He went to the cross for the joy set before him. He endured the cross despising the shame and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” And what does Jesus ask his disciples to do? He says to every disciple, “Take up your cross and follow me. Take up sacrifice.”