Wisdom

Chapter 10

“Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ Deuteronomy 4:5-6 (NLT)

By wisdom the Lord founded the earth; by understanding he created the heavens. Proverbs 3:19 (NLT)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (NKJV)

Even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without wisdom that comes from [God] he will be regarded as nothing. Wisdom of Solomon 9:6

Introduction

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines wisdom as

1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.

2. Common sense; good judgment.

3. a. The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge; b. Wise teachings of the
ancient sages.

4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

In the previous session, we dealt with “knowledge that” By “knowledge that” we referred to knowing certain things, for example we know that 2 + 2 = 4. However, what to do with knowledge, appropriate application of knowledge, is what we define as wisdom.

It is evident that knowledge and wisdom is not the same, but it is also evident that they are
closely related. Knowledge is acquired by study, it is theoretical; Wisdom results from an intuitive insight into things, it is practical. Wisdom is what you do with knowledge.

In this session, we will focus on the practical aspect of knowledge, that aspect which is most closely linked to a wise plan or course of action.

Imitators of God

As with our earlier discussions on character, and knowledge in the previous session, we will again look at our ultimate example, God, who is wisdom and whom we are called by Paul to imitate (Ephesians 5:1).

Louis Berkhof defines God’s wisdom as “that perfection of God whereby He applies His knowledge to the attainment of His ends in a way which glorifies Him most.” (my underlining)

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16 Paul contrasts the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. For me the key verse in this passage is verse 24: “But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (NLT)

Christ is equated to the power and the wisdom of God, and we know from John 1:3-4 that God created everything through Jesus Christ: “God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (NLT)

Jesus is the power and the wisdom, not only of the universe, but also in our personal lives: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13
– NLT)

In John 14:12, Jesus says to us that “… anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (NLT)

Believing in Jesus and following His commands will release the power of God’s wisdom in and through our lives and businesses.

What God cannot do

When studying the aspects of God’s wisdom with regard to the application of His knowledge, we must acknowledge that there are certain things that God cannot do. At first
sight, this may sound contradictory to Scripture. Jeremiah asks the rhetorical question “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (32:27) and earlier in the same chapter he makes the statement, “nothing is too hard for You.” (32:17) The angel Gabriel says to Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible,” (Luke 1:37) and Jesus says, “With God all things are
possible”
(Matthew 19:26).

Yet, God cannot do those things that deny His own character. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). In 2 Timothy 2:13 we read that Christ cannot deny Himself, and James says that, “God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13).

We therefore can conclude that God cannot lie, sin, deny Himself or be tempted with evil. Whilst as sinners, we are constantly tempted by Satan, we must be certain to never be
in a position where we tempt others. Regarding this, Scripture gives a stern warning: “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1-2)

In the wise application of knowledge, we must always keep in mind that there are certain
things that are to be avoided at all costs, regardless of what the world view of wisdom is.

God’s freedom

As we have seen above, although God’s power is infinite, His use of that power is qualified by His other attributes. However, as far as God acts within the (humanly speaking)constraints of His character, His will is absolutely free. The way God has created us reflects a faint similarity with Him. We read in Genesis 1:27 that God created man “in His image”. This includes the fact that God has given us a will. We exercise choice and make decisions regarding the events in our lives. Even though this is relative freedom, unlike God’s absolute freedom, we nonetheless have free choice within our spheres of activity.

As we have seen in the previous session, we can acquire knowledge in various ways, and we can even be very systematic about it. Also, we read in 1 Corinthians 12 that knowledge
is a gift of the Spirit. However, what we do with this knowledge is a question of choice.

Douglas Moo writes that wisdom is the means by which the godly can both (1) discern and (2) carry out the will of God. He carries on to say that wisdom will keep a person from
immorality (or acting without integrity) and enable him or her to live a life acceptable to the Lord.

How to choose

James exhorts his readers, that “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 – NIV).

The principle here is that wisdom comes from God. As knowledge is a gift of the Spirit, so wisdom is a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8). And as we read in the Wisdom of
Solomon, we are nothing unless we have the wisdom that comes from God.

In Psalm 111:10 we read that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” (ESV). This theme is repeated in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (ESV)

We must therefore conclude that there are principally two ways in which we can obtain wisdom:

The first is to simply ask God through prayer (1 Corinthians, James), and the second is through reverent fear of the Lord, and as we have seen in previous sessions, we begin
to fear God knowing Him through His revelation of Himself in Scripture. (Psalms, Proverbs) We are back to reading the Bible and praying everyday! A relationship with the living God.

Carrying out the will of God

Wisdom without accompanying action is meaningless. James verbalises this best when he
summarises the characteristics of a life that is lived in Godly wisdom:

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and
lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
(James 3: 13-18 – NLT)

When we carry out any action, we always have a choice. We can either choose to be obedient to God or we can choose to be disobedient. There are no other choices! The Bible teaches that to choose obedience is wise. To choose disobedience is unwise

Divided loyalty

In James 1:6-7 we read that when we ask God for wisdom we should firstly trust in God alone for the answer, and following on from this, James says that if we do not trust in
God alone, we are as unsettled as a wave in the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. The message is clear: Seek your wisdom from God and God alone, and be careful of the wisdom that the world offers.

Later in chapter 4 (vv 4-6) James says that “friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.” As we have seen above, we always have a choice in terms of what course of action we are to take. Satan does not want us to make the Godly decision and consequently he will do everything in his power trying to deceive us into making the wrong decisions.

This choice we have is best summarised in John 10:10: “The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My (Jesus) purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (NLT)

Conclusion

Wisdom is the application of knowledge. God is our ultimate example of living a life of wisdom. However, we are a sinful people living in a sinful world, and therefore, in imitating God’s wisdom, there are a number of principles we must be aware of:

  1. True, Godly wisdom will never contradict the character of God;
  2. God has given us a free will within the constraints of our daily lives and activities. This has two implications:
    1. We have to discern God’s will;
    2. And then we have to carry out His will.
  3. Then we have to be careful of worldly wisdom and make sure that we choose right.

Further reading

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, 1994, Zondervan;

Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof, 1958, Versa Press

The Letter of James, Douglas J Moo, 2000, WB Eerdmans Publishing Co

Case studies

Applying the principles in the foregoing study notes, how will you deal with the following
situations in a godly manner.

  • You employed a  person who experienced severe personal trauma. Initially the person performed adequately, but as the trauma gets dealt with, the work
    performance deteriorates. You have come to the conclusion that it is to the disadvantage of your business to continue with this person’s employment.
  • You are facing huge pressure at work and have a serious deadline. However your son’s school concert is coming up and your wife says she is missing you as you
    come home late spend hours on your cell phone when at home doing business.
    Lovingly giving your family what they need might mean not making your deadline. What do you do?

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Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth