What to study at college, whether and who to marry, what career to seek, where to live, and what friendships to pursue—I’m young, but I’m making decisions that will impact my entire life.
I choose how to spend my time and talents with a multitude of potentially God-honoring options and the freedom to decide. I decide every day whether to meet a friend for coffee or go to the gym, finish homework or take a nap. (The nap usually wins.)
Tiny decisions, but they add up to my life. And when there’s no clear right or wrong, I wonder how to guide these decisions into a life that honors God.Recently, seeking wisdom for a conversation with a friend, I landed on James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
I asked God.
Then, while I waited to wisdom to surge through my veins like a superhero serum, I remembered that in the past, God had actively involved me in the answering of similar prayers, and that this usually began with Scripture. So I shuffled over to Proverbs, and instead of flipping to maxims later in the book, I began with Chapter 1. After all, I need to start becoming wise, and what better place to begin than at the opening, where Solomon lays the foundation for his later words?
In the first chapter, before Solomon launches into extended metaphors about wisdom and sin, he grabs his son’s attention and urges him to listen closely. While there’s much more to mine in this chapter, I found four promises and two warnings which lay the groundwork for gaining wisdom.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. –Proverbs 1:7
This verse is often translated with the word wisdom replacing knowledge, and it lays out the fear of God as the opposite of despising instruction. Fearing God means obeying His words, giving them weight. Far from despising His instruction, we heed it. Obeying a holy, righteous, all-powerful God who loves you and hates sin—that’s wisdom.Obeying a holy, righteous, all-powerful God who loves you and hates sin—that’s wisdom. Click To Tweet
Find wise people and listen close.
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck. –Proverbs 1:8-9
If you’re my age, you probably have parents who know you well and want what’s best for you. If not, find other older people and let them in to your life. They have a wealth of experience that is worth listening to even if you sometimes resent their advice. Trust their love and weigh their words carefully.
But don’t stop with their words; watch their lives. How do wise people in your life use their time? What are their priorities lived out? How do they use their money? What do they value; what do they talk about? Watch for wisdom in action and walk in it.
- Reject sin.
My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent. –Proverbs 1:10
Rejecting sin keeps your mind and heart clear so that you can judge truly. It’s hard to accurately assess a situation while hiding sin from yourself and others.
And rejecting sin is itself wisdom. This passage recounts how wickedness promises wealth and pleasure but leads to destruction. When sin tastes sweet in the moment, the first step of wisdom is seeing through its lies and choosing life.
Listen to rebukes; put wisdom into action.
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you. –Proverbs 1:23
If we want wisdom, we will listen to rebuke and turn back to obedience. This verse promises that God will reveal himself to us when we walk with Him, so listening to conviction is wise because it restores fellowship with God. Wisdom puts this knowledge to use.
And now the warnings…
Ignore wisdom now and you’ll miss it later
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 –Proverbs 1:24-26
I often seek wisdom for big decisions while ignoring its voice in daily decisions, but I can’t take a wisdom pill after making myself a fool by long habit. Daily rejecting wisdom will cripple you in crisis, and in the meantime, it will stunt your growth and squander your time. God’s wisdom comes from a lifestyle of obedience chosen daily, not a one-time gift.
- Complacency will kill you.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them –Proverbs 1:32
Ignoring wisdom in daily life reveals a complacent heart, content to hum over God’s voice until a moment of crisis wakes it. But coasting down a destructive path does lasting damage, and only alert attentiveness to the word of God and practicing wisdom faithfully will prevent the destruction that foolishness creates.
The final verse of Proverbs 1 offers a hopeful counterpoint to the warnings:
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. –Proverbs 1:33
For those who listen, wisdom is a guide and a shield. It is a great reward, enabling us to use our resources for the glory of God. Looking to it will rescue you from the day of trouble and help you navigate trials that come. And for those of us who wonder how to become wise, Proverbs 1 shows that it starts simply by valuing wisdom as the treasure it is. And if we treasure it, we will seek it. And when we seek it, we will find it.