The Two Faces of Wisdom

Any discussion of wisdom must include King Solomon whom the Bible stated was the wisest man in the world.

“Then God said to him (Solomon)… ‘I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.’”
I Kings 3:10-12

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding…Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East…for he was wiser than all men…”
I Kings 4:29-31

The gift of wisdom bestowed on Solomon followed his admission of inadequacy and humility. Solomon acknowledged that his very kingship was a gift from God and he asked for wisdom to execute that position so as to be pleasing to God. He acknowledged that his earthly wisdom was not sufficient to even discern between good and evil.

“…Now, O LORD my God, You have made your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in…Therefore, give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…”
I Kings 3:7-8

Solomon’s subsequent wisdom was the heart of the Book of Proverbs.

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity…”
Proverbs 1:1-3

True wisdom begins with the acknowledgment of God and reverence for His sovereignty over all mankind.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Proverbs 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”
Psalm 111:10

Any Christian who truly seeks God’s wisdom shall have it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given to him.”
James 1:5

True wisdom is not the ability to implement one’s personal agenda; rather it begins with acknowledging God and then asking Him what that agenda should be. For example, the present administration might ask for wisdom on how to peacefully implement a two state solution to the Palestinian question. However, inasmuch as the Bible states repeatedly that the land in question was granted to Israel forever, the administration would be asking for the wrong thing. In essence they are repeatedly trying to do the wrong things better.

Many consider our leaders to be a very smart; however, fewer consider them to be wise. Perhaps that is because they seek a different kind of wisdom than that sought by Solomon. The other face of wisdom is also described in the Bible.

“He frustrates the devices of the crafty…He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.”
Job 5:12-13

“The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.”
Psalm 94:11

Such human ‘wisdom’ is described in more detail in the New Testament.

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
I Corinthians 3:19-19

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
James 3:13-17

Several thoughts come to mind with the above scripture. The term ‘self-seeking’ in this passage is from the Greek erithia and is actually a political term connoting contention, strife, scheming, factionalism, rivalry, self-interest, mercenary interest, or canvassing for public office. The passage also states that where self-seeking exists, confusion also exists.

Then James goes on to explain that true wisdom from above is, among other things, peaceable, gentle, and willing to yield, and is absent of partiality and hypocrisy.

When considering the outgoing 111th congress, and the recent lame-duck session, one can guess what type of wisdom prevailed.

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