The Beginning of Wisdom is This
The Greek philosopher Socrates was quoted as saying: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Often times, it is our faulty perception of our knowledge that gets us into difficult situations. We understand the great value of having wisdom, as is described by Solomon throughout the book of Proverbs. Such benefits include understanding the fear of the LORD and finding God’s knowledge (Prov. 2.5), wisdom keeping us safe from wicked ways and people (Prov. 2.12-22), and the physical benefits of wisdom (Prov. 3.5-10).
But where does one start on the journey to gain wisdom and knowledge? Solomon points us in the right direction in Proverbs 4.7. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
I know, this seems like something Yogi Berra would say. “How do you begin having wisdom? Go get it.” However, there is something profound, easy to grasp, yet hard to admit in this statement. Consider this: If one has to go get eggs from the market, do they have any eggs at the moment? Of course they don’t, there is little need for buying more eggs if one is already sufficiently supplied with eggs. Furthermore, even if one’s refrigerator is completely devoid of eggs, the owner of said refrigerator will not be motivated to buy more eggs if they believe there are already eggs aplenty! How many times has this happened to each of us, we’ve went to the market believing that we had (fill-in-your-own-food-item) and returned home to find we didn’t have it as we believed. It is this very situation that highlights the great wisdom of Proverbs 4.7.
The beginning of wisdom is realizing you don’t have wisdom! This is no better exemplified than in the progression of young men and women towards adulthood. Any parent (mine in particular) can attest to the fact that it takes much effort to convince individuals aged between 13 and 20 that they do not have all the answers nor do they have things all “figured out”. But this problem is not isolated to people in this age group. Admitting that one does not have the wisdom they desperately need is a huge step for all who seek to gain the true wisdom that Solomon describes, because it shows the humility to say “I do not have this wisdom.”
Is this not also one of the greatest hindrances to the Gospel message as well? Men and women already convinced that their own way is correct and they are in no danger of needing to change. This mindset is also reflected in arguments such as “I’ve been a member here since ____________.” Here is the question that everyone reading these words has to answer: Which of these two will be used to determine your destination at Judgment: the amount time spent practicing YOUR religion, or the Word of God that describes HIS religion? Will it be your opinion of what the truth is, or will it be the Truth itself? “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (John 12.47-48)
There is another aspect of Prov. 4.7 that is valuable to consider. After admitting that one does not have true wisdom, and desires to have it, what then follows will determine the success or failure of the seeker. Returning to the egg scenario briefly, one may go to the store with the true knowledge that they do not have any eggs. One may leave the store with a great number of items in their cart and return home with a vehicle full of groceries and a receipt to match. No matter how accomplished and satisfied you feel, one fact remains: You did not bring home any eggs! What good is it to need eggs, and then allow all the other pursuits and distractions of the local market cloud your judgment to the point where you did not come home with what you knew you needed! What good was your trip?
We are told of the immense value of wisdom in chapter 4 of Proverbs: “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (v.13) We must first acknowledge that we do not have true wisdom, and then we must pursue that wisdom with all of our strength, time, and resources! Remember, “whatever you get, get insight.” No matter what else you can accumulate during your time here, you must gain the wisdom that comes from God at all costs. That wisdom starts with knowing the fear of the LORD (Prov. 1.7) and continues from there. Pursuit of the true knowledge of God must be our sole life’s pursuit! Nothing else is described in the Proverbs as being able to be “life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (4.22). Nothing else Solomon describes does as he describes in 4.8-9: “Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place upon your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” Furthermore, nothing else carries such great consequences if ignored, as Solomon warns in Prov. 1.24-29:
“Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my council and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and have their fill of their own devices.”
May we be a people who are humble enough to recognize our own ignorance and the great vastness of God’s wisdom. May we also be a people who are persistent enough to seek this wisdom from God, which comes freely to those who seek it in the only place it may be found: the word of God. –KS