The Beginning of Knowledge
1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn. My God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis
There is something in me that, from time to time, yells and screams, stamps its feet, jumps up and down, and creates a general ruckus until it gets its own way. Usually, the way that it, and I desire, is not a good way, or at least, not the best way. It, and I do not care though. It may not be the best way, but it is my way – and we want it. The Bible calls that thing in me sin, and when I identify with it – moving from it, to we, to I… I become a sinner. A sinner need not be a horrible person. A sinner is just someone who advocates for the interests of sin.
God does not want us to sin – in part because sin is offensive to God, and also because God loves us and wants the best for us. Sin, on the other hand, has no care for us and knows that the consequence of the road it walks is death and destruction. There is no love in sin.
This is the backdrop, the thing going on behind the scenes when we talk about wisdom. You see, the Bible tells us that the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is “the fear of the LORD”. However you choose to translate “fear” in that statement, it means you take what God says seriously and it has a strong bearing on your actions. However, how many times have you heard people around you (maybe me), or perhaps even yourself saying, “I’m the type of person that just seems to have to learn things the hard way.”? Or perhaps you told someone else, “Some things you just have to learn through experience.” I remember hearing a comedian talk about wisdom once and comment that there were some things he really did not need to learn through experience. For example: how it feels being run over by a steamroller. I think I’ll pass and take someone else’s word for it that it hurts. A lot.
Sure, we can laugh at that, but what about all those other things that we have been told absolutely everyone should experience at least once? In retrospect, how many of those things were told to us by people who had bad experiences themselves and perhaps just wanted to share the misery, so they would not feel like the only foolish people for doing it. Certainly, Lewis is right in that we seem to learn so much more concretely from our mistakes than from lessons we learn from the teachings of others… however, the Bible clearly tells us that it is the way of the fool to learn everything that way and the way of the wise to learn from instruction, and in particular, to learn from the instruction of God. How do we learn from God? Consider the writing of James:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James tells us that if we want wisdom from God, all we have to do is ask. We have to ask seriously, not jokingly, or with no real intent on actually listening to God… but if we ask earnestly, James says, God will give us wisdom generously and without reproach (meaning He will not make fun of us either for asking). Apparently God does not believe there are any stupid questions… just stupid actions, usually resulting from not listening to Him.
Consider then, the Price of Wisdom. The street value for it is pain, and often irrevocable and devastating consequences. That’s what it costs to get wisdom out on your own. But today, just for you, you can receive it at no cost to yourself or your friends and family, because the Price of Wisdom for you has been paid for by the Prince of Heaven. The sacrifice of Jesus gives you access to God Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and you better believe it, the Wisest, Smartest, and most Generous being in the entire universe… the one source that will never, ever lead you wrong. All you have to do to gain this wisdom is say no to sin and yes to God.