The Pathway to Wisdom
Proverbs 3: 1 – 12
The Book of Proverbs is a part of Biblical wisdom literature, and reading through it inevitably gives the general impression that Godly wisdom is highly prized and desirable. The Book’s vignettes on the human lifecycle illustrate the need to proficiently apply thoughts and decisions to common life experiences, that we call wisdom. It is clear that God gives wisdom liberally to anyone who asks Him (James 1:5-6), but invariably it would be the particular circumstances that would determine the bases of our need for it; most significantly when critical choices are being encountered, but not totally exclusive to that. Since it is imperative to live a consistent exemplary lifestyle before God and man, how does one acquire wisdom?
King Solomon was extremely clear in defining the Book’s object as the provision of wisdom, instruction, and discernment for wise behavior, viz., in righteousness, justice, and equity in the fear of God (1:1-7). To that end, he described a process for this internalized learning. Firstly, he reminded his readers to faithfully obey God’s Torah or Laws with a promise of a long peaceful life, and to consistently love and be faithful to all, so that they become effective testimonials (vv.1-4). This obedience is not legalistic, but grows out of Christlikeness, bearing the fruit of self-control and calmness despite life’s pressures and setbacks. Furthermore, their ordinary lifestyles are to be evidenced by an all-embracing trust in God, resulting in preferring His ways to their own choices (vv.5-6). This does not come easily, as the humility that derives this knowledge of the distrusted self is the outcome of many difficult journeys with the Lord, as knowing Him invariably includes knowing themselves; the two are inseparable. A realization of the paucity of their own wisdom will entail a lower defensiveness on their part, with a definitive diminishing of their own insecurities and anxieties in the face of problems. The inevitability of walking with God is that He will have them examine themselves regularly.
Next, he advised them not to be wise in their own eyes but to fear God, and they will be healed and strengthened (vv.7-8). The implication is that in relating to others, they are to be humble and guileless. Wisdom is obviously not a technique that they can acquire on their own, for in the rough and tumble of relationships and problems in community, wisdom is experienced. There is no other way! In fact, wise people are always found in community with others. Then, he moves into one of the principal domain of human self-absorption, instructing them to honour God from their wealth and the first fruits of their produce (cf., 1 Tim 6:10). The fundamental objective is to remind His people that their wealth derived from God, and they are stewards of His blessings. God is no man’s debtor and He promises His own devoted oversight of His faithful stewards’ needs (vv.9-10).
Finally, out of the blue, he warned that wisdom springs from the Lord’s discipline and reproofs (vv.11-12). There is a balance in Christian life, but it is certainly not devoid of suffering, which is positioned here as the handmaiden to wisdom, as it exposes the idols and evil within our hearts. King Solomon counselled his readers to embrace the inevitable pain that comes with it, as God’s love and joys in them are invested through His unending assessment of them. Suffering has the peculiar habit of not leaving us at the status quo; it will always lead us to another level of life, for better or worse, depending on the depth of our relationship with the Lord of all grace.