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Wisdom (Part 1. What Does It Take To Be Intelligent And Wise?)
This is one of a series of independent study articles. (Part 1 of 2 in series)
All [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine.
In my thinking, I'm a simple man - not a smart man, at least not as smart as most of my family and a whole lot of my friends. Now, I didn't say I was stupid, just a slow learner and a quick "forgetter." Stupid stands out in a crowd. People are quick to point out a person they consider stupid, to laugh (or just show they know what stupid is), and also to point out that stupid is not what they are. But this article is about intelligence and wisdom, something people don't usually point to, or say anything about (probably because they don't think they are that smart and don't want anyone comparing them to someone even smarter).
HUMAN VANTAGE POINT
Most people believe intelligence and wisdom are practically the same thing, that there is no real difference between the terms at all. In point of fact, there isn't much of a difference in the dictionary definitions. The thinking is that intelligence is "head smarts" and wisdom is applied intelligence. It is a fact that a person can be smart, even genius, and not know how to tie his own shoelaces. The question remains however, can a person that can't even tie his own shoes be wise? You may be surprised that the Bible says that it is possible for a person who has limited intelligence to be considered wise by God. Indeed, the ones that are not "brainiacs" but are the simple, the ones not noble, not mighty; are more likely to be smart enough to be used of God. It seems the more brain power a person has, the less likely he is to use it to get to know God. He is much more likely to try to figure things out on his own. We who know God, know that isn't the smart thing to do. (I wonder if there is a mathematical formula for that, a ratio of brain cells to real smarts?)
"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things which are." (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)
Of course, the popular world view of wisdom is that wisdom is connected with success (success, as defined by the world itself). Who cares, they say, how smart someone is if they aren't succeeding in life? It's a competitive world out there and no one wants to think of themselves as less than adequate to succeed. Just how smart do you have to be to succeed in the world anyway? Yes, that purposely is a loaded question. Supposed experts have the answer: In the world, one can succeed (and therefore be considered wise) as long as one believes the premises for success recognized by generations of human experience, AND they are vouched for by their society in general.
Following are three false premises currently touted as truth by the world, and their Biblical counterparts. You will see how different the concepts of Scripture are from what is commonly believed to be true about intelligence and wisdom.
False Premise 1.
There is no need for you to delve into universal principles of life or any absolute truths.There are experts to decipher what is important for you to know. Those experts will give you a proven plan to succeed and tell you of people that have done things according to their plan and become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. In other cultures, wisdom will be based on ability to adapt and on the recognition of others. There are experts or gurus in those cultures too. Genius, after all, is built upon the shoulders of those that came before us. Why burden your mind with searching for an absolute truth or what you feel is God? We as a society will tell you what is important. We can do that for you. Why waste time and energy with the "why" of life, the how is what is important and if you really feel a "why" is needed, come up with your own "why" of life. After all, each man's opinion is as valid as the next, right? Each person's society defines what is "useful knowledge" and what is not. Universal principles? absolute truth? there is no such thing! All you need is to believe that you can succeed, and that you know how to get help should you need it. Everything you need to know is in the vast amount of human experience that is at your disposal, and we are there to help you find out anything you need to succeed and survive. Give us your dream, your drive, and your dollar and we will give you the world.
Scriptural Doctrine Opposing False Premise 1.
Learning of God and His Bible is essential for attaining true wisdom and real success in life.The claim is made by the world that accumulation of knowledge about the world and the human experience is where wisdom can be found. God says that the instruction of wisdom is in learning the fear of the Lord. Fearing the Lord is learning to trust Him and learning what it means when you don't trust Him. That is where true wisdom is found. When a person asks Christ into their heart a new relationship with Him begins. God makes Himself known (reveals Himself) to that person and begins a work in that person. This new relationship "locks down" who God is in that person's mind. This knowledge leads the seeking soul to fear God and subsequently to wisdom. Delving into the Bible for God's truth is touted to be a waste of time and foolishness. Since the book was written so long ago, it is thought to be of no real significance today. The truth is that the Bible is a relevant work that is as up to date as tomorrow's newspaper. This book would be a literary impossibility, had it been written of men. But the Bible has proven itself to be without error, contradiction or falsity. It is the information that will equip its learner with all essential knowledge. It's impossible to know and have wisdom without the Bible and its truths buried deep in ones heart. It's like cracking open a treasure chest and finding gold. Once it is opened, it becomes a passion and a compulsion from which it is hard to turn back, for then one sees the real value of this treasure. The world's knowledge is nothing in comparison.
Men think that the sum total of all human experience is enough to grant one wisdom and success in life, but the Word says that all of this earthly life is "vanity and emptiness." King Solomon said that pursuit of everything this world has to offer is like "trying to grasp the wind." For what value is all this life if in the end we die in our sins and are not redeemed from them? We still will end up spending eternity away from heaven.
Wise men of the world will point to other cultures and claim that the chief of some tribe or shaman or medicine man would be the pinnacle of that culture's wisdom. The reason that conclusion is drawn is because the group of their society have turned to him for knowledge or named him leader and that counts for success indicating wisdom. Yet if you displaced that shaman or guru to another part of the world, those people would see that "wise" person as ignorant, inept, perhaps even stupid. If God says a person is wise, it doesn't matter the culture, where he lives, or the society. That person can be from any strata of human existence, any strata of financial substance - it doesn't matter. True wisdom is universal.
The belief that is foisted upon us by the world is that there is no absolute truth, and that each man should find the truth that works for him. That is a lie. God was here before we were here. God determines what is truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." He knows wisdom because He created us and knows what will work for us individually and also for groups in whatever society they live.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
"And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven: this burdensome task that God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind... I communed with my heart, saying, 'Look I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.' And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind... Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun, was distressing to me, for all is vanity [emptiness] and grasping at the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me... For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This is also vanity and grasping for the wind... I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it. God does it that men should fear before Him." (Ecclesiastes 1: 13-41, 16-18; 2: 17-18, 26; 3:14)
"The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility." (Proverbs 16:33)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
"That from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
"But the natural man [person that does not know Christ as Savior] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
"Then he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true,' And the Lord God of the prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place." (Revelation 22:6)
"But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21)
False Premise 2.
Money, position, and power indicates wisdom. Success equals money, position or power. Money provides the ability to live. More money increases the options for life. The more options one has, the greater the chance for success, therefore happiness is possible. (It is always noted here in this false premise that Money cannot buy happiness but money creates a situation in which anyone should be able to make themselves feel happy.) Earning and having money creates position in society because of its advantages, and thus causes the recognition of the society in which he lives. That gained position in society yields power. With power comes more money, which yields better position, which yields more power. All this can make for happiness. So they conclude, "how can this not be wise? There is very little use in the world for brains that won't yield one or more of these three things: Money, Position, Power. Look at anyone that is wealthy, or that has a position in their society, or that has power in their community- would you not assume they were smart, simply because they had one or more of these three things? Of course you would, it only makes sense. No society grants position or power to a fool, to a "know-nothing." If one truly uses their brain, they take advantage of opportunities that come their way. They work hard and that hard work causes them to succeed in their society.
Scriptural Doctrine Opposing False Premise 2.
Money position and power are not an indicator of intelligence or wisdom. Riches may indicate blessings of God but do not necessarily indicate that true wisdom exists in that individual. First of all, money does not provide means to live, God does. It is at His hand that we find sustenance, shelter, or any other blessing we receive. We are to work and God will give opportunities to all to whom He chooses both good and bad. Money will come to any to whom the Lord wills to be rich. He chooses some evil to be rich and some good people to be poor. Therefore money does not indicate a person is wise. Position and power have the same principle. The world loves its own and will love and follow those who think as they do. God also will allow some of His people to gain position and power to do His will in any given arena. God promises prosperity to those who follow Him. That, however, does not necessarily mean that the prosperity that He gives will include money in this world, but there will be treasures in heaven. Building treasure in heaven is wise.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
"The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set him among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory." (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
"The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is maker of them all." (Proverbs 22:2)
"That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)
"For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, if any man would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
"Because you say,"I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire..." (Revelation 3:17-18a)
"I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and how to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need." (Philippians 4:12)
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19)
WORLD'S DREAM OF PURE KNOWLEDGE
False Premise 3.
Knowledge itself has a spiritual component to it. Evolution created all we see. As we become more and more evolved, we will proceed to a state of pure knowledge and pure wisdom. Surely, this will be an educated, enlightened, even spiritual society then. Unlimited energy with unlimited knowledge and a life like we only dream about. Unlimited energy and the knowledge to manipulate it, makes us like gods. Haven't we been striving for such power all of our species' struggle? It is the ultimate "life, liberty, and... happiness." The more we learn, the more likely we will be to see that there is a higher calling to being human. An enlightened society where we will be able to breed out of existence crime, greed, and all those things which make us ashamed of ourselves and of our society. That component of knowledge makes getting an education a spiritual calling. Not to mention, the accolades it provides as you push yourself to be a specialist in some area of knowledge and expertise. So do all that you can do for yourself, for your community, for your species, and for your world. Go get an education, make something of yourself. Become all that you can be. Contribute to the evolution of our species. Not only will you receive the monetary rewards of hard work but also the recognition of your community. The smarter and wiser you become, the less likely you will be anti-social, anti-societal, anti-global. The wiser you become the more you will see that it takes a village, the human community, to solve the world's dilemmas and you are an integral part of that world.
Scriptural Doctrine Opposing Premise 3.
For decades the theme in science fiction stories is that evolution has given the world a chance to grow beyond its natural drives and instincts - its sin. This is a lie as well. Not only the premise that we are evolving into some species greater than our own, but also the notion that evolution will somehow purge us of our drive to sin, granting us some form of spiritual existence. We were born into sin and the only hope to escape that sin is Jesus Christ. The essence of that sin is the desire to be as gods. It is true, that particular desire was there from the fall in Eden, but it is not to be embraced, it is to be abhorred. The illustration above is of a character in the movie Dark Crystal. The world depicted in that movie was split, and when that happened, two species of creature emerged from one. We got to know the nature of each half species and noted something was missing. When the movie ended, when the crystal was mended, the creatures were once again whole. They were "in balance" and once again had pure knowledge and had pure energy. They had achieved perfection through evolution and when they were split they had lost it. Now the perfection had returned and they were once again almost gods. A person watching would say, "Look at what they were as a species. Why couldn't we do the same thing if we got 'in balance,' if we tried to be all that we could be, if we were in harmony with ourselves and with each other?"
I chose this picture from the movie because I really love that movie. I watch it often, realizing that it is reflecting something dark alright; the notion that inside of all of us is something pure that must be realized for us to be saved as a people. The fact of the matter is quite the reverse- we must realize we are debased creatures that only God can redeem. We are bound for an eternity away from God in a place designed for Satan and his angels. Unless something intervenes, the path we will follow will lead us to hell. All knowledge does for us is to give us more intricate ways to express our sin. It does not lead to real wisdom. Real wisdom comes from fearing the Lord; the knowledge of Him and serving the King of kings.
"Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands?' Woe to him who says to his father, "What are you begetting?" or to the woman, "What have you brought forth?" Thus says the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: 'Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me. I have made the earth, and created man on it, I - My hands - stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.'" (Isaiah 45:9-12)
"Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we have all knowledge. Knowledge puffs up but, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." (1 Corinthians 8:1-2)
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there." (James 3:13-16)
"There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the LORD." (Proverbs 21:30)
How To Become Wise In A World That Ignores Its Creator
1. Ignore popular belief that God is unnecessary. It will be necessary to disregard the television and cultural input that will try to get you to conform and adopt its attitudes about what makes sense and what is smart. When one follows Christ they appear foolish, ignorant, stupid and intolerant to those that do not know Him. They can't understand what makes you "tick" because you are basically saying that the sum total of all man's experience amounts to an empty hope and no future. Those that are not spiritually discerning do not want to think that what they believe and have stood for, could be wrong. Could it actually be wrong to strive to have money and power in a society that runs on money and power? Well, if God wishes one to have money and power while a person serves Him, it will come to that person. But the pursuit of such without God may just destroy that person. What about a college education? That can't be wrong, can it? No, not of itself. But again which way are you going? What are you learning? The institutions of "higher learning" are a bulwark for Satan's indoctrination. School is where many young people learn to not believe in God and where professors try destroy a young person's faith as foolishness. Be careful. Follow God's leading and learn what is needed to serve the King of kings. In that learning, you may end up a scientist, but one with faith. You may end up a politician but one with faith. You may end up with a career that makes money but you won't love money - you will love the Lord.
2. Call out to God to save you and begin a relationship with the Maker of all and the Origin of all wisdom. All things begin with a relationship with God, knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Master of your life. No one is truly wise without God; no expert, guru, atheist, agnostic, or anyone ignoring God in their everyday life is truly wise. I include born-again Christians in that group. Sure, the born-again Christian will not go to hell, in that they are wise, but they will not be wise in life if they are ignoring God's word, and His principles to live by. To be wise, to be smart and live smart, one must follow Christ and learn of Him. God will lead into all wisdom. Would you say the devil is wise? I wouldn't. I would say that he has experience in his sin and is sophisticated in his methods, but who thinks that going against God is showing wisdom? No one should, because it is stupid, even insane.
3. Walk with God and learn of Him. All knowledge of God comes from His word and the Holy Spirit enlightening our spirit to learn and follow Him. A person needs time in prayer and contemplation of their Savior. They need to empty themselves of fleshly leadings, whether it be pursuit of money, fame, honor, or glory. They need to care about what God cares about, the souls of lost humanity. They who study His word will get to know God's nature, for it is in those words of the page you will discover the heart of God.
The Bible says what makes God cry and laugh, what makes Him angry and glad. It says what we should do. He will show us individually a path that only that individual can tread. He will lead us by the hand and sustain us, helping us to grow into wise adulthood in the likeness of His Son.
4. Lean on Him and not on your own understanding. I find this is one of the hardest for most people. After a person's salvation, they still have a tendency to try to figure things out on their own. They go to sources other than the Source of truth. I know people that spend hours upon hours planning and rehearsing their lives in their own minds without as much as one prayer to God for enlightenment and leading. When that plan goes awry, they ponder its potential flaws so when they plan again, they will plug the holes they think they found. All the while, the "hole" that occurred in their thinking was God missing from their plan. God gives leadings that will not fall through. These "leadings" don't always move at the speed we would wish, but they go His way and He will make the outcome His outcome. His outcome is always best for us because He knows us better than we know ourselves.
5. Grow in Christ and serve Him with your whole heart. To grow in Christ one must really learn to love Him. You would think that loving God had already been established since that person truly believes in God and has cried out to Him to save him or her. But that's not necessarily true. God will save a person that has not learned to love Him yet. All they need is to know that they are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is that Savior, and call on the name of Jesus to save them. They don't fully understand how much they are loved, only that He does love them. They don't understand what God wants from them or how to please Him or how He will change them. They don't know how to fully trust him with their day-to-day life, only with their afterlife. All they know is that they came to the end of themselves, and a new life is born. They must now learn to love Him which should be easy if you learn the depths of His love for you. Unfortunately, a great deal of people don't give God the time to impact their heart. Only more time passing, and trials lived through, and life in general, will drive a person to their knees to realize they need God moment by moment. We are a creature that is designed to need God in our lives. The sooner we learn that lesson, the sooner we will be able to think with wise discernment that comes from above.
Dear Reader: If you have read the false premises above and found that one or more (perhaps all of them) made sense to you, I hate to tell you this, but you have been affected by the world. You have been duped into thinking that those who have a Biblical outlook on life and that follow Jesus are stupid or ignorant or intolerant and are to be dismissed. The harsh truth of the matter is that that type of "wisdom" only extends to facets of the short years of this life and does not consider the life to come. It masquerades as wise but is not really wisdom at all. Even if a man lived a full life of one hundred years, what is that compared to eternity? So even if that man gets every dream he has fulfilled in his lifetime, the man still dies. What comes after (and then never ends) will far outweigh the life he has led. How many billionaires would pay all the money they had for just a few more years of life? I believe all of them would give everything they had for that opportunity. And what is that compared to a never-ending eternity? If you say, "but this is my life!" - it's true, it is your life. But what you do in this life concerning Jesus Christ determines how you will spend the eternity that is to come after this life. God wants everyone to have an eternity "in Christ" with Him. So, how wise are you? Will you wait until your deathbed and then when you think you have no choice then stop to consider what will become of your eternity? Will you realize the smart thing is to call out to God and receive Him before it's too late. Who really knows the future or even if you will be alive tomorrow? Today is the time to consider God because right now is all you can be sure of - don't gamble with your future. Don't be stupid!!!
So what must you do to start this life in Jesus?
1. You must believe you sin, that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. If you believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to pay for the sin of mankind of which you are one, you can tell Him that you need Him to forgive your sin and ask Him to save you.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
"Therefore just as through one one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)
2. You must realize that you are in need of a Savior and that you can not save yourself. What comes after this life is beyond your control and you must ask Jesus to take care of the life that comes after you die.
"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
"And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Acts 2:21)
3. You must be willing to turn from your unbelief and the life that you have been living, and turn to Jesus, trusting Him to save you.
"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" I tell you this man went down to his house justified [saved]." (Luke 18L13-14a)
4. You must call out to Jesus to save you from your sin. That is a simple prayer of faith, telling God that you want to be His child. Pray something like this:
Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I don't want to be stupid and die in my sins. I want to be your child. Please forgive me of my sins and save me. Be my Lord and Savior and Master of my life so I can walk in wisdom for myself and my for my family. Thank you for dying for me, being buried for me and raising from the dead for me. I turn now from my sin and the way I've lived my life and I turn to You, Jesus as the only Way of salvation. Thank you for saving me. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
Other in this series of independent articles: