True Wisdom, Practical Wisdom and Worldly Wisdom
Wisdom is understanding of the world and how you fit into it. Every person seeks wisdom in some way or another. The question is where do we expect to find it?
Psalm 1 & Proverb 1 agree that wisdom does not come from looking to understand the world, but from understanding God and our relationship to Him through His Word. In contrast, Ecclesiastes 1 describes the search for wisdom if I remove God from the equation. When you see the phrase “under the sun” or “under heaven” in Ecclesiastes, understand that Solomon means that his scope is only what exists in the world. His view is the search for wisdom apart from the search for God. His conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 1:13–15 (ESV) — 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted…18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
When he says, “what is crooked cannot be made straight and what is lacking cannot be counted,” he is acknowledging that apart from God one has no satisfying answer for the injustice, imperfection, and disharmony that exists in the world; while, simultaneously, there exists in the human psyche a longing for those things. No amount of hard work, accumulation of wealth, or earning of knowledge will straighten out these problems. We see this in modern history as well. The promise of the Renaissance of the 18th Century on to today was that through science and education we would arrive at a utopia. The opposite has proved true as warfare, bloodshed and injustice have increased each century since that time.
Proverbs 1 tells us that if we are to arrive at wisdom, the starting place must be an appropriate fear of the Lord. This means that we must begin from a place that we understand that God is the source of wisdom and truth and the only judge of it, and we are not. Wisdom, then, is not discovered, but revealed. This is why the psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1–3 ESV)
Are you trying to understand your present circumstances or your place in the world? Are you studying at school or through books the wisdom that the world has to offer you? Knowledge will only become wisdom once it is connected and defined through an understanding of God and His Word.
Proverbs 1:32–33 (ESV) — 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”