For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding, Proverbs 2:5, ESV.
There is much that can be said about our verse, but I want to make three simple points. First, true wisdom comes from God. Second, if we want wisdom, we have to seek it. Third, if we seek wisdom, and ask for it, we can trust God to give it.
One thing that all wise people have in common is humility. This isn’t true of all intelligent people; you might know a prideful genius. Nor is it true of all educated people, hence the phrase, “puffed up with knowledge.” But pride and wisdom are foes; where one is, the other isn’t. It takes humility to realize that we need wisdom, and it takes humility to realize that we must look outside of ourselves to find it.
The Proverb tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, so we should realize that wisdom doesn’t come from within. We must look outside of ourselves to something greater. To that which has fallen on hard times in our day—Truth, which comes from God.
Amanda and I lived in Motley County, Texas for three years. Motley County lies in the midst of the northwest Texas ranch country, where land is measure in sections instead of acres. With a county population of 1200, there was no need for each town to have their own school, so all 100 students attended Motley County Independent School district. The nearest decent grocery store was 60 miles away; Amanda’s doctor was in Amarillo—130 miles away.
Motley County lies at the edge of the Caprock Escarpment, which separates the rugged rolling plains of West Texas from the flat, endless high plains of the Texas panhandle. When Amanda was expecting our two daughters, and then for a time after they were born, we regularly made the trip up the Caprock and across the plains to Amarillo. For miles and miles, the tall, swaying grass goes on, like a calm sea, with nothing else in the way of the horizon. Unless you pass a grain bin, a feedlot, or an Allsup’s, the scenery never changes.
Not much more than a century before we drove our Trailblazer up I-27, cowboys were blazing their own trails through the same high plains. There weren’t any street signs, or even grain bins, during the cattle drives; no land marks at all, natural or otherwise. In those days, it was easy to get lost in the high plains, just as it is easy to get lost in a desert. You could wander endlessly. But the cowboys knew of a fixed, unchangeable truth, an infallible guide—the North Star.
At night when the stars came out, the north bound cattle drives could see if they had drifted off course. When the chuck wagon and other wagons were unhitched in the evening, the drovers pointed the wagon tongues toward the North Star. That way, they were set to go in the morning.
If God is real, and the Bible is His Word, then we have a sure and infallible guide, more sure than the North Star. Spoken from the One who created the heavens and the High Plains, the One who knows “the end from the beginning,” there can be no greater source of wisdom than the written Word of God. Though the written Word is our greatest source of wisdom, it’s not the only source. The Bible itself affirms this. God uses many means to teach us. All is God’s creation, and all of His creation speaks of Him. But we don’t always know what we should learn from nature, or how to apply it, do we? So the Bible is the safest source.
In our search for wisdom, we can get distracted and off course. We can wander endlessly amongst the philosophies of our world, the well-meant advice from friends, the thousands of well-marketed self-help books. We need something with which to check our course. All true wisdom comes from God. To make sure that we are headed in the right direction, we must follow His Word.
So there is the Bible. I have several of them, and there’s no one in my town who doesn’t at least have access to one. You most likely have one, too. And there are people available to teach us if we wish to learn more. Granted, wise people may be scarce in your town. They are scarce in any town. Gray hair, I have learned, doesn’t equal wisdom. But wise people from other places have written lots of books which are also easily available. And then there’s life itself, which gives plenty opportunity for making gains in wisdom, though it seems that we rarely take advantage of the opportunity. Hence, gray hair and wisdom aren’t the same.
Learning takes effort. I’ve named only a few sources of wisdom; there are many, but none will avail if not used. We must seek, as the proverb says. We have to read, look, ask, and listen. We must think, and think some more. Wisdom won’t fall in the lap of the lazy, though a loaf of bread, or a roof, may.
We can look with confidence. Our proverb tells us that the Lord gives wisdom. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him, (James 1:5).
In the C.S. Lewis book, The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan the lion sends Digory and Polly, with the flying horse Fledge, to the walled garden on top the hill, far out of Narnia, to retrieve a life-giving apple from the tree in the midst of the garden. The first night, the children are hungry:
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse….”But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
God knows that we need wisdom, but He likes to be asked, too. “It will be given him” who asks, and of course seeks and searches. Those are the prerequisites. We have to know that we lack wisdom. We have to ask. And we must “Seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure,” (Proverbs 2:4).
Let’s remember, here, that God doesn’t just “Help those who help themselves.” This unbiblical cliché ignores a most important aspect of God—His grace. God helps the helpless, those who can’t help themselves, and those who know that they can’t help themselves.
This doesn’t contradict what we have said above about laziness. Though God helps the helpless, he also blesses and works through our effort. A pastor friend of mine told me that the Holy Spirit works most through those sermons that the preacher works most to prepare, and I’ve learned that to be true.
In the early 90’s, my Dad was laid off from two jobs within a short time. With a house payment and wife and two children, he had a lot to take care of. Daddy believes in a sovereign, all-powerful God. He does today, and he did then, so he trusted God to provide. That didn’t mean that he sat in the house waiting for heavenly manna and a monthly mortgage check. I remember instead that when he returned from interviews, he put on his work clothes and mowed lawns, painted houses, and did whatever else he could to make money to hold us over. Daddy worked. God provided.
Paul assures believers that God will “supply every need.” James includes wisdom within these needs, and says that if we ask, “it will be given.” So “seek it like silver,” and trust God to deliver.