A Modern Day Quest for Wisdom Returns to the Roots

Wisdom – A Modern Day Quest

Proverbs 8:12
A Quest for the Ages

What is wisdom? Can it be definable? If you search for it will you find it? Many people for thousands of years have sought to understand exactly what wisdom is and how to get it.  Some have gone to great lengths to do so, seeking the remote areas of high elevations moving through harsh conditions.  As I began to look to this week’s focus verse I needed more information about wisdom and so I decided to begin my quest to narrow down a definition. I embarked upon my adventure with what every day modern connected person would do; no I didn’t load up my backpack and bring out the maps.  In fact I didn’t even put on my shoes. Instead I kicked back in my chair, grabbed my laptop, and clicked on Google, searching the archives of the giant system of knowledge through the internet.

One search yielded 191,000,000 results and confused the issue dramatically as I had to decide what kind of wisdom I wanted to know about.  The dangerous parts of this quest now stems from the fact that I have read copious amounts of information, stories, and quotes and with this plethora of particulars I am not sure I came any closer to a determination in what I sought than before I began my quest through this venue.  I have however come upon some tidbits that I would like to share that perhaps will aid you on your own journey should you decide to take on this quest.

The first thing that I found when searching for wisdom – Google style, was a definition. So thinking that this would be a good way to start, my first of many clicks began. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary attempts to define wisdom in what seems like a logical way I can understand;

a:  accumulated philosophic or scientific learning: knowledge

b:  ability to discern inner qualities and relationships:  insight

c:  good sense:  judgment

The dictionary definition clearly informs us that wisdom is knowledge, insight, and judgment. However if I attempt to define these words they will not return to wisdom so knowledge insight and judgment are more the end than of the beginning. If I have wisdom I must combine knowledge, insight, and judgment together. If I allow the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary to give a more common practical definition it expands to tell me that I will gain knowledge though experiences that I go through in life. It further allows that insight is simply the ability to understand things that others do not understand and that on top of all that judgment will be the ability to determine what is reasonable or makes good sense.  If I stopped at this definition then I can assert that I am wise based on the following unknown quote I read in the mix of my wisdom quest.

You know its cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold.

A very profound simple seemingly obvious ridiculous statement that made me laugh  but that has all the elements of the dictionary definition of wisdom that I can apply personally to my life for proof that I have wisdom. I do indeed have scientific knowledge that if the temperature falls below a certain degree mark that my body temperature will also go down first beginning with discomfort then if cold enough death could follow. I know that if I go outside in the cold that I will realize that it is cold. So part one of my definition of wisdom has concluded that I have a wisdom knowledge base. So what about insight?

I will assert that I obviously understand that when the temperature goes down outside due to seasonal changes that it will indeed be cold outside if I am outside. I know that there are others who do not understand this, aka children, because they will argue that they do not need a coat or warm clothing. Yes, those of you reading this who have children or who have interacted with children know that sometimes they reach an age in which a coat or warm clothes in cold weather is simply not “cool”, no pun intended. I have also seen adults who will travel around outside in the cold without a coat or warm clothing and complain about the cold weather and their own discomfort but yet will not put on a coat or warm clothing because they simply don’t want to bother with it. I therefore will base that since I do wear a coat or warm clothing in cold weather that not only do I have the scientific knowledge base, I also have insight of understanding that cold weather temperature requires the need of a coat or warmer clothing. Which bring us to the final determination of wisdom, good sense or judgment.

I will further contend that it is just good sense or good judgment to wear a coat or warm clothing when the temperature outside is cold. This simple exercise has now determined that I and most likely you, reading this, all have wisdom at least on this subject but have we really determined what wisdom is? It appears that each of us would have access to the same scientific knowledge of temperature at some point in our life, the experiences of life that we have gone through has taught us to put a coat or warm clothing on when it is cold or suffer the consciences, and if we do this based on our insight and knowledge then we are outwardly showing good sense and judgment. I would however warrant that each of us may have a vast difference in opinion on what the temperature outside would need to drop to for our knowledge base, insight, and good judgment to take effect so taking all that into account we could question each other’s wisdom. So perhaps we have not really found the base of wisdom at all. Perhaps wisdom has a deeper meaning.

As I continued my quest in search of wisdom I came upon a story that I thought gave a better idea of true wisdom. We often think that wisdom is just knowledge base or intelligence of a subject but in this story it is clear that wisdom is greater than learned knowledge.

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on his fish’s quality.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while” the Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs” the Mexican said.

“But” the American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said: “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed: “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat and, with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked: “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied: “15-20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said: “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO – an Initial Public Offering – and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said slowly: “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

It is obvious in the story that the fisherman was wiser than the Harvard business graduate because he realized what was important in life. This story shows us that an information knowledge base holds no link to wisdom if we have no ability to understand or discern what really matters in life. At this point in my quest I felt I was really getting somewhere yet I wasn’t there yet so as I continued to ponder wisdom, I realized it was time to turn off the computer and head back to where I started, the great information book ever written and given to us by our creator; the Bible.  It is through the Bible that I have now fulfilled my quest for a more definable wisdom and determined a few other things along the way which I will share but first allow me to present this week’s focus verse, Proverbs 8:12;

I, wisdom, live with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. (NLT)

Wisdom – Back to Roots

Searching through the Bible I have now discovered that wisdom is really two things; reverence to God, our Creator and respect for all persons everywhere. Wisdom is always acting according to the spirit of the Commandments which is more than just following the rules. This is not to say the Commandments have changed it is that we must be careful to think why the Commandments were written and to not look for ways to use and evade the Commandments’ written intent. If we are living in reverence to God then we are doing all that He has asked as we are glorifying Him in our relationship and actions. It is in the book of James that I found a clear definition and descriptions of wisdom. James 3: 13-18 specifically gives us much information about wisdom as true wisdom comes only from God.

The New Living Translation notes from the Life Application Study Bible in James 1:5 expands on wisdom with an excellent defining element to my quest to pin the meaning down. Paraphrased below wisdom has three defining characteristics; practical, divine, and Christ-like.

  1. Practical – Wisdom is taking a profound idea and putting it into action. It is not isolated from trials and suffering and is the real tool by which we are able to overcome trials signifying it to be more than a profound idea.

  2. Divine – Wisdom is more than common sense. It must begin with respect to and for God and because of that respect it will lead to living in the direction God intends for us to live.

  3. Christ-like – If we seek wisdom we are essentially asking to be Christ-like. Christ is the wisdom of God as identified by the Bible. (1 Corinthians 1:24, 2:1-7)

As we seek to understand more deeply this week’s verse it is important to analyze briefly the other elements; knowledge and discernment that go with wisdom. Knowledge is plentiful especially in today’s information age but wisdom is often scarce. This is because few people understand that the true foundation of knowledge is to have fear (respect) of the Lord. (Proverbs 1:7) All of the information we research, find, or just come across is meaningless without respect of the Lord if it is wisdom we seek. Discernment is the ability to gain a spiritual direction and understanding to the things we experience.  Paul tells us in Philippians 1:10 that understanding love and growing in the knowledge of Christ is what is really important so we can live pure and blameless lives until Christ comes. All of this boils down to the fact that when we can see things from God’s perspective and then know the best course of action to move forward in we will have obtained wisdom and it begins by first respecting and trusting God. Ecclesiastes 8:1

I decided that to finalize my quest for wisdom and to pin down what I had learned I needed to rewrite the Proverb of this week’s focus verse and apply it directly to me for my own clearer understanding. Perhaps it will be meaningful to you also;

I, who desire the foundation in life – wisdom - realize that to claim this foundation I must hold reverence, respect and relationship to and with God, my creator, along with my respect for persons everywhere while constantly practicing my ability to see things from God’s perspective and then apply all to live with good judgment putting into the best course of action not only my ideas of knowledge but my circumstances. This is because I have discovered that knowledge’s foundation is respecting and trusting God as I understand what really matters in life so I can attempt to live a pure and blameless life as possible as I wait until Christ returns or I join Him whichever may come first.

My quest to find wisdom, to know and achieve it perhaps is not a reasonable goal in one journey but instead is a life long journey as the more we learn about God the more we understand and have a more Christ-like means of moving forward. I have learned much from my mistakes of the past and I know I will be making a few more as I move forward in life but I will continue on my quest to reach wisdom remembering that true wisdom comes only from God.

Have a wise week.

Love in Christ,

E.J

What are Your Thoughts? Join Us in Discussion

Have you conducted a modern-day quest for wisdom? Do you consider yourself a wise person? Do you feel wisdom is often difficult to find? Have you found the key to making wise decisions? Join us in discussion on the topic of wisdom or other related topics.

How God is working through your life?