What if you were charged with the task of defining the word “wisdom”? Really.
Take a moment and think about it…
All the nuances of this term are difficult to capture, at least in a concise way.
- How is wisdom different than intelligence?
- What is the role of life experience in the acquisition of wisdom?
- How is wisdom accessed, and what does it look like when actualized?
Some abstract concepts connote so much meaning that words do not suffice to describe them. So the Creator gets creative once again, painting pictures with words penned by Solomon. Together, words and images coalesce to activate the mind, imagination, and experiences of the learner.
Proverbs 3:13-20 (NIV)
13Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the
heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
Wisdom is nothing if not implemented. It is never just an idea or philosophy in isolation. “Wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19) Wisdom must be acted out by a living agent, so perhaps this is why the literary technique of personification is employed. And we find that wisdom is to be desired, but not as a purely intellectual pursuit. More than that, it’s aesthetically pleasing, it’s relationally soothing, it’s physically nourishing. And even more, we find that it’s the powerful force by which the foundations of the earth were forged.
Who may wield such a powerful force? Despite its experiential nature, we find that wisdom is not always gained through the accumulation of years. Nor disseminated through the abundance of words. Just ask Job. If you read his story, you find that his aged (and perhaps well-meaning) friends were less than impressive in their attempts to help. The younger Elihu finally intervened, demonstrating that sometimes wisdom must take initiative — sometimes it must confront. By it’s very nature, wisdom must somehow be expressed.
6 So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. 7 I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ 8 But it is the spirit[b] in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. 9 It is not only the old[c] who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.
10 “Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know. 11 I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, 12I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments. 13 Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom; let God, not a man, refute him.’ 14 But Job has not marshaled his words against me, and I will not answer him with your arguments.
15 “They are dismayed and have no more to say; words have failed them. 16 Must I wait, now that they are silent, now that they stand there with no reply? 17 I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. 18 For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; 19 inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. 20 I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply. 21 I will show no partiality, nor will I flatter anyone; 22 for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away.
Wisdom that remains in the abstract is not wisdom at all. Maybe we can learn something about its nature, even as we experience it vicariously through imagery. The best thing about wisdom, however, is that it can be granted upon request as the Spirit of God is infused into its bearer. (James 1:4-5)
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.*
*From “Be Thou My Vision.” Words: Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride); translated from ancient Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and versed by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, alt.
Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.