Cultivating Wisdom according to Proverbs

I’ve never heard someone say, “I wish I had less wisdom”, and I’m quite sure I never will.

Wisdom is one of the few things all of us should always aspire to have more of – never less – but unfortunately, true wisdom is something many will never have. Why? Because they refuse to trust this formula:

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An Individual + The Fear of the LORD = A Wise Person

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I believe this formula is true 100% of the time, and I did not come up with it on my own – this is what is taught at the beginning of the book of Proverbs:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge …” Proverbs 1:7a

You want knowledge, wisdom, and insight, but you’re wondering where to begin? You have a choice to make, because the journey to true enlightenment, true wisdom, begins with the fear of the LORD.

Proverbs teaches that each person will choose whether to fear the LORD or not (Proverbs1:29). There are no victims in the quest for wisdom besides those who are victim to their own bad decisions. You choose whether you will fear the LORD or not, thus choosing whether to be wise or not.

Fearing the LORD?

What does it mean to fear the LORD? The answer to this question is simple, yet profound.

When a person fears the LORD, they simply believe and behave as if God is God and they are not. That is, they live under the rule of God instead of as if it were the other way around.

Conversely, when a person does not fear the LORD, they believe and behave as if they or someone/something else is God, and God is not. That is, they live under their own rule or the rule of another person or group or substance – anything other than God.

In the heart of each man and woman, God is either on the throne or He isn’t and someone or something else is that doesn’t belong there.

The call to fear the LORD is simply the call to First Commandment Faithfulness.

First Commandment Faithfulness

In Exodus 20, God gave what is known as the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. The first one He spoke is the most important and the basis for the other nine.

This is God’s First Commandment: “You shall have no others gods before Me,” or “You shall have no other gods in My presence” (Exodus 20:3).

God commands His people give Him the preeminent place in their lives. I emphasize the word “the”. God does not desire “a” preeminent place in your life – His power and glory demand “THE” preeminent place in your life.

In practice this means God is the authority, God is the ruler, God is on the throne of your heart, God is God!

None other can take His place, none other can direct your path, none other is worthy of your worship or devotion, none other can compare to the preeminence and priority placed by you upon His will and His word for you. He is God – there is no other! You either demonstrate with your life that you believe this is true, or you do not – there is no in between – and that is First Commandment Faithfulness.

One of the primary ways we demonstrate this kind of faithfulness is by accepting God’s correction.

 “… but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7b

Unwillingness to accept correction is antithetical to fearing the LORD in the book of Proverbs.

If a person is unwilling to accept correction, then they are hopeless. One must be teachable to be reachable. When one chooses to be unteachable they are saying, “I don’t need anyone’s help – I’m going to do whatever I’m going to do and I don’t care what you or anyone else says about it.” In essence they are saying,  “I am my own God!”

Whether those words are audibly uttered or not, that is what their actions are saying, and the root of this sin is pride. Have you ever met a prideful person willing to accept correction? Newsflash: they don’t exist.

To fear the LORD, one must rid themselves of pride and be willing to accept God’s correction. I emphasize God’s correction, because not all “correction” is rooted in Him.

The book of Proverbs distinguishes between the fear of man and the fear the LORD. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

Secular wisdom, societal pressure, political correctness, social standards of politeness, and various other cultural norms and expectations are not usually rooted in God, and, more often than not, actually stand in opposition to His word and will rather than in harmony with it.

Even so, carnal forces will attempt to “correct” you as you go through life, and one who caves to cultural pressure to the displeasure of God does so because their fear of man outweighs their fear of the LORD. It is absolutely possible to allow the carnal to “correct” in opposition to the word and will of the divine. We must be very careful in choosing our sources of correction.

Practical Steps toward Cultivating Wisdom

In Proverbs 2:1-5, Solomon makes a promise to his son regarding the cultivation of wisdom:

“My Son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” ~Proverbs 2:1-5

There are four parts to this passage. The word “if” shows up three times to indicate the conditional nature of the promise found after the “then” in verse 5. Reread this passage and think of it as if God were speaking directly to you instructing you in the cultivation of wisdom:

  1. “IF you accept my words and store up my commands within you …”

The first step toward cultivating wisdom is to not only believe in God, but to know Him and His desires. The best way to become intimately familiar with God is to become intimately familiar with His word.

Do you read the scriptures? Do you know what they contain? Are you aware of God’s wants and desires, commands and prohibitions, character and nature? The scriptures reveal these things to us. In fact, God has graciously given us the scriptures to do just that.

If you are reading this article on the internet, then you are without excuse. Our easy access to the scriptures today in addition to some of the best Bible teaching in the world was unprecedented just a few short decades ago. God has given us a gift in the availability of these resources, and those of us with access are without excuse if we ignore them.

Additionally, we are instructed to “accept” God’s words. Acceptance implies obedience. If one reads the scriptures simply to read but does not obey, then they are not accepting God’s words. The scriptures are not meant simply to transmit information – they are meant to stimulate transformation through application.

Reading, internalizing, and obeying the written word is the first step toward cultivating wisdom.

  1. IF you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding …”

The second step toward cultivating wisdom is to ask for it – this is done through prayer.

The New Testament book of James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

God is the source of all wisdom, and He is unimaginably generous. Would you like to have a portion of His wisdom? Honor Him by asking for it believing He will grant your request – this is a prayer He delights in.

I personally pray almost every day that God will open my eyes so that I may open the eyes of others, and I believe God honors that prayer because He is graceful and generous.

Do you regularly pray? When you do, do you ask for wisdom? If not, you should.

This is the second step toward cultivating wisdom.

  1. “IF you look for [wisdom/understanding] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure …”

The third step toward cultivating wisdom is to actively seek it. There should never be a past tense associated with your search, that is, you “sought” wisdom and do no more – this is folly. You must be “seeking” actively, because the cultivation of wisdom is a lifelong journey. Remember, the scripture says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” – not the end.

Additionally, one must apply wisdom when it is found. If wisdom mandates you think or behave a certain way, then you should align yourself with it. To dismiss wisdom is to invite folly, and is akin to finding a treasure in a field and tossing it aside like an ordinary piece of garbage.

To treasure wisdom is to seek it and apply it when you find it – this is the third step toward cultivating wisdom.

Following the steps of wisdom cultivation leads to this culmination:

  1. “THEN you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

This is the end to which we strive – this is the key to enlightenment. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom!

Make Your Choice

God is loving, gracious, and desires to impart wisdom to His people. We choose whether to accept this gift from Him or not. If one is victim to folly, they are victim because of their own choices.

We refuse God’s gift of wisdom by choosing to place ourselves or someone or something other than God on the throne of our hearts. We refuse it by choosing to pridefully refuse to accept correction. We refuse it by choosing to allow the fear of man to overpower the fear of the LORD.

Conversely, we choose to accept God’s wisdom when we embrace the fear of the LORD, placing God on the throne of our hearts choosing to submit to His rule and authority. We choose to accept it when we embrace His correction and set our minds to applying His instruction and His desires to our lives. We choose to accept it when we choose to let the fear of the LORD dictate our thoughts and actions regardless of social or cultural pressure, or our own selfish desires.

The LORD invites us to fear Him, not as a curse, but as the beginning of a lifetime of blessing no matter the situation or circumstance.

An Individual + The Fear of the LORD = A Wise Person

Either wisdom or folly – the choice is yours to make.

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This post is a reflection based upon the passages in Proverbs dealing with the fear of the LORD and accepting correction found here as part of an ongoing series in Proverbs.
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One thought on “Cultivating Wisdom according to Proverbs

  1. […] a father is leaving for his son. Also, these Proverbs assume the parents are wise because they fear the Lord, but that is not always true. Keep that in mind as you […]

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