Wisdom

ByGatekeepers Association

Wisdom

Wisdom refers to the application of reason to experience. The greater and wider a person’s experience, the better is the field for gaining wisdom. The wise person or sage allows experience to stand on its own so as to incorporate that experience into wisdom. A theory that excludes experiences so as to maintain the theory tends to become folly that reduces the capability of the sage to think wisely. Sufficient exclusion of reality and experience from a person’s views and theories of life can demote the person into a fool. A number of Biblical books make the contrasts between the sage and the fool — Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job, as well as Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, which remain in the Catholic and Orthodox canons of Scripture. Since Sirach and Wisdom carry the Biblical wisdom tradition into the 2nd and 1st centuries BC (respectively), the communities that no longer include them in their canon can still gain ancient Jewish insight and wisdom in a variety of areas, including some not treated in Proverbs, e.g., wisdom on God’s gift of physicians (Sirach 38:1-15).

Biblical wisdom is not merely “pure reason,” such as the Enlightenment philosophers have tried to impose on the West. Reason is a tool, similar to a ladder that takes a person step by step in a straight line from point A to point B. However, also like a ladder, the starting point of reason must be pointed to the correct goal: a ladder placed against a blank wall will lead the climber to a blank wall; a ladder placed under an open window will lead one to enter the house. Similarly, reason and logic that are based on ideas that center on the human self will lead its thinkers to the blank wall of human selfishness.
Based on such an understanding, the Bible frequently states that its starting premise for wisdom is “fear of the Lord.”

  • Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures for ever! (Psa 111:10)
  • Job 28:28 And to man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.
  • Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  • Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Ecc 12:13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
  • Ps. 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

Sirach:

  • 1:18 To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom, and her branches are long life. Part of a discourse on “fear of the Lord” in Sirach 1:9-30, resumed in 2:7-18, 10:19-24
  • 19:20 All wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and in all wisdom there is the fulfilment of the law.
  • 21:11 Whoever keeps the law controls his thoughts, and wisdom is the fulfilment of the fear of the Lord.
  • 23:27 Those who survive her [the adulteress] will recognize that nothing is better than the fear of the Lord, and nothing sweeter than to heed the commandments of the Lord.
  • 25:6 Rich experience is the crown of the aged, and their boast is the fear of the Lord.
  • 32:16 Those who fear the Lord will form true judgments, and like a light they will kindle righteous deeds. 17 A sinful man will shun reproof, and will find a decision according to his liking.
  • 34:13 The spirit of those who fear the Lord will live, for their hope is in him who saves them. 14 He who fears the Lord will not be timid, nor play the coward, for he is his hope. 15 Blessed is the soul of the man who fears the Lord! To whom does he look? And who is his support?
  • 40:26 Riches and strength lift up the heart, but the fear of the Lord is better than both. There is no loss in the fear of the Lord, and with it there is no need to seek for help. 27 The fear of the Lord is like a garden of blessing, and covers a man better than any glory.

In contrast to fear of the Lord, Sirach describes the sinful fool:

23:18 A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, “Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The Most High will not take notice of my sins.” 19 His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they look upon all the ways of men, and perceive even the hidden places.

Fear of the Lord is key for the sage, who knows that any of his or her theories and enterprises will all be judged by the infinite wisdom of God. Not merely one’s stated goals but even the underlying motives of any human idea or project will be subject to God’s wisdom. However, fear grows into deep love, as Solomon and Sirach attest in their wisdom. Jesus Christ, whom “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), will judge every human being and all of their enterprises. We therefore promote wise thinking in all of our political decisions.

The application of wisdom allows Christians to weigh various political proposals in terms of their overall goals, the cleverness and practicality of their means of attaining those goals, and the establishment of the norms by which Christians judge the success or failure of those goals and means.

For instance, Christians do well to assume the good intentions of politicians of both parties until they provably demonstrate corruption or evil intent. Politicians do want all children to be educated, the poor to become wealthy, the sick and infirm to receive care, and the nation to be defended both locally and internationally. The application of wisdom to their various programs goes beyond assuming their good will and considers the value of a program and makes regular judgments on its successful achievement of its goals. This approach binds the Christian first to the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom rather than letting any party loyalty blind us to folly proposed or perpetrated by politicians. Wisdom grants a freedom to apply the considerations of God’s commandments, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, virtue and practical analysis of means and results over consideration of mere human loyalties.

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