“Wisdom” is a term we use frequently. We all want to be wise. Indeed, wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We refer to the “Wisdom Literature” in the Bible. There is even a book of the Bible entitled “Wisdom.” Yet, wisdom often seems hard to come by. How many people do you know who are truly wise? What is wisdom and how can we cultivate it in our lives?
Webster defines “wisdom” as “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment or insight.” There are two main components to that definition – knowledge and action. It is important to note that both are needed. One can not simply be aware of the right thing to do. One must also do it. A wise person lives an authentic life. He or she integrates belief and behavior so that there is no disconnect between the two.
The wisdom we seek is one based in God. As such, it often flies in the face of what the world considers wise behavior. Society at large measures wisdom (and so many other things) in terms of monetary success. For the Christian, Jesus is the ultimate model of wisdom. St. Paul emphasizes that in light of the cross, “God has shown up human wisdom as folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:17) We seek the wisdom that leads to eternal life, not the wisdom that leads to a large bank account.
The Book of Proverbs offers much instruction on what it means to possess this type of wisdom. It is a “how-to” manual on how to live wisely. According to Proverbs, wisdom begins with “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). This type of fear is a profound reverence and awe of God the Creator. That awe leads to respect for all of God’s creation. Loving others as ourselves will flow naturally out of that respect. Caring for the environment will as well.
“The wise listen and learn more.” They seek out guidance. (Proverbs 1:5) A wise person is willing to put in the time and effort to discover what is right and true. One can not have right behavior without a well-formed conscience. There is a duty to learn what God teaches, and not simply rely on one’s own feelings and desires. A wise person is willing to acknowledge that others know more and to learn from them.
There is both and ethical and spiritual component to wisdom. The ethical aspect concerns the actions a person makes. It is perhaps how a wise person will be most recognizable. However, a wise person is also engaged in a relationship with God. We were made to know, love and serve God. A wise person will do all of those things. True wisdom comes from God and a person cannot be truly wise without acknowledging and submitting to that higher power and intelligence. May we always seek to become wise in the way of God.