Category Archives: Wisdom

Head vs Heart

Proverbs 19:2

‘Desire without knowledge is not good –
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!’

Desirable

It’s good to be passionate, to have strong desires to be love and to care. Without it life would be very boring, but as this Proverb hints at heart without a bit of head can lead us to miss the real path.

Unbalanced

A lot of people these days are driven purely by emotion. They go after things they want with reckless abandon. When we are totally driven by emotion we often end up making bad decisions and hurting people in the process. People driven by emotion will throw away relationships on a whim because they have seen the next best thing, they will chase promotions at the expense of colleagues, they will attempt to satisfy every whim and fancy in any way possible, and worst of all usually be blind to the trail of destruction in their wake. Our emotions need to submit to our common sense, and both need to submit to Jesus.

Counting the Cost

We need both desire and knowledge to make our decisions as we do not want to miss the way. Consider the words of Jesus:

Luke 14:28-33 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’

May we learn the power of passion and desire guided by wisdom and knowledge.


Prudent People Get It

Proverbs 18:15

“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.”

What’s Good for You

I’ve heard this preface to warnings all my life: “If you know what’s good for you, you will…” For example,

If you know what’s good for you, you will…

  • pay attention
  • look before you cross the street
  • blow on that before you take a sip
  • learn to say no
  • think twice before you say, “I do”
  • put that back and buy a cheaper one
  • stay in school

Solomon was simply saying, “If you know what’s good for you, you will seek and get knowledge.

Never Stop Learning

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Photo Credit: Katie Baker

The older I get, and the more I study, the more I realize that there is so much I don’t know. I have more knowledge than I used to, but I am always learning.

The prudent man and the wise man know that it never hurts to “learn all you can and can what you get.” The knowledge you acquire may not seem useful today, but only God knows the future.

 

 


Big Ears

Proverbs 18:13 

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
To answer before listening – that is folly and shame. (NIV)

It doesn’t matter how much teaching we receive on the subject of listening, or how many times we are reminded by Scripture (James 1:19) to be quick to listen and slow to speak, most of us are not good listeners. Isn’t it true that when we are on the listening end of a conversation we are only partially listening? Generally we are working out our reply and looking for the opportunity to interrupt so that we can say what we want to say.

Our failure to be listeners exists despite our own experience of being in conversations where we know that the other person hasn’t heard a word we have said. Such experience means that we are all acutely aware of the need to be good listeners. It is foolish, rude, and shameful to interrupt with a response when the other party to a conversation has not finished speaking.

Listening requires focus and concentration. It is important that we hear correctly and understand what is being said, not just in conversations with other people, but when we come to God in prayer. So how do you approach God in prayer? With a listening heart or a chattering mouth? Or do you start out planning to listen but end up butting in so many times that you never really hear what God is saying to you? God speaks to us in many different ways. It is essential that we take time to ensure that we hear what He is saying. While that means listening carefully, it also means growing in our understanding and knowledge of Him. It is a bit like learning to speak a foreign language effectively. It requires practice and a lot of work to achieve real understanding.


Still Waters Run Deep

Proverbs 18:4 

“The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.”

The deepest waters in our world are found in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The deepest point of the Mariana Trench is reported to be 6.831 miles below sea level. The trench has been explored during several scientific expeditions, but for most of us it is just a name on a map or chart, or an entry in Wikipedia. Despite the efforts of scientists the deepest parts of the ocean generally remain a mystery because of their inaccessibility.

rockpool 4But even a rock pool is a different world. Life is different in the water. There are strange creatures and unusual colors. To reach the best and deepest pools it is necessary to scramble out across the rocks at low tide. This is something I did regularly as a child. Although my friends and I returned often to our favorite rock pools, they were never the same. Each new tide brought changes, trapping different creatures.

And so it is necessary to explore and go deep when searching for words to use in our daily encounters with other human beings, and also with God. We have to be careful with words. We have to be wise users of language. We need to develop a wellspring of wisdom as a resource on which we can draw every time we speak.

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Timothy 2:16 NIV)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 NIV)

A People of Understanding

Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Time after time the book of Proverbs has given us characteristics of a fool:

  • Fools despise wisdom & instruction (Proverbs 1:7) 
  • Fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22)
  • Fools slander (Proverbs 10:18)
  • Fools cause mischief (Proverbs 10:23)
  • Fools are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8)

Our verse today adds one more characteristics – a fool is someone who does not want to understand.

Bla_Bla_Bla_by_explosiv22I knew a guy in college that was never wrong, even when he was wrong. He did not want to even consider the possibility of being wrong. He knew everything and had the answer to ever question that has ever been asked.

You know the type of person that I am talking about! They have no interest in hearing the truth but are speaking to hear themselves talk and to show others just how much they know.

The New Living says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Fools want to talk all of the time and tell other people their opinions and how things should be done but don’t want to hear any instructions themselves because they know best. Many times, these people talk just to hear themselves, and all that the other people are hearing is “BLA, BLA, BLA”.

FULL CIRCLE

There are several verses in Proverbs that do this, but I believe that our verse today comes full circle with the whole theme of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

As Christians, how can we expect to fear the Lord and grow in knowledge when we want to live our lives the way we want to and aren’t willing to submit to HIS will for our lives. We are saying to Him that I just don’t want to understand Your ways and I think that I can do better. If we are living our lives this way, we are nothing but fools, but I do it all the time!

Lord, I pray that you would help me and others to live our lives in such a way that we would not be fools with our lives. I pray that we would be willing to submit ourselves to you and understand Your ways. 


What I Thought Was a Good Thing Was Not

Proverbs 18:1

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.”

Embarrassing

When talking through the Proverbs on one Wednesday night at church, my own wife, sitting on the front row, asked a question that caused me a little embarrassment. I had just read the above verse from the King James Version and was about to give my thoughts when she asked, “Why does my version read so differently?”

You see, I encourage my congregation to compare translations when doing a verse-by-verse study of Scripture, for, like turning a faceted jewel, a different perspective can bring out color and sparkle never seen before. It’s the same flawless stone, but from a different angle. Granted, not all translations agree on every interpretation, but where one might be off, a group of translations will clarify the proper meaning of the text.

So, my wife’s version read: He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom(NASB). At that, another church member volunteered her version’s take: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense” (NLT).

I didn’t have an answer. What’s even worse, my interpretation of Proverbs 18:1 and the application I was going to make was no where even close to the idea the other two versions were conveying. What we had here was a preacher who didn’t follow his own advise and got caught not doing his homework.

My Original Thoughts

My original thoughts on Proverbs 18:1, based simply on a cursory reading of English I thought made perfect sense, went something like this:

“Through desire,” because a man has to have the desire or drive to do something worthwhile, a man who wants to learn sometimes has to get alone, push aside distractions, and “separate himself.” It’s something that takes commitment – you have to want it. But it’s not simply the “getting alone” that makes all the difference; it’s the seeking of wisdom from multiple disciplines that gives one understanding in more than one area of life. Or, you could just say that learning takes hard work, but you can’t be lazy – you have to work for it.

But that wasn’t what this verse is saying.

The Real Meaning

Please understand, the King James Version’s translation of verse 1 is not incorrect; the way we say things and how we use our words have changed, that’s all.

The other translations I mentioned rendered Proverbs 18:1 in a way modern readers, such as myself, could better understand the original text. Where I thought “desire” and “separated himself” meant something noble, the actual meaning of the original text (and the way an Elizabethan reader would have understood the KJV) was something selfish and arrogant.

Where I thought “intermeddleth with all wisdom” was saying the man checked out more than one book in the library, the word “intermeddleth” means to “to expose, lay bare,” or “quarrel with anyone, especially in dice, drinking, or in dividing an inheritance” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).

So, another way you could interpret Proverbs 18:1 might go like this:

“Loners and arrogant know-it-alls think they’re in a class all to themselves and make few friends. They also have contempt for any wisdom that doesn’t come from themselves and are always trying to meddle with or subvert it to gain an advantage.”

Would you have interpreted it differently?


Let Our Words Be Few

Proverbs 17:27

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”

Our Words

For years, it was said that women would speak about 20,000 words per day while men only speak around 7,000. But, more and more research is showing that nowadays men and women are both speaking around 16,000 words per day.

Some of those words that are spoken are very well thought out, while others are just blurted out.

Mark Twain said,

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Solomon is warning us to learn how to restrain our words and to keep a level head. The ESV says our verse this way, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

Proverbs, and the Bible for that matter, is full of wisdom on how we should use our words.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 reiterates Proverbs 17:27, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

The words in Ecclesiastes are talking about making promises or saying hasty words straight to God but I believe that we can carry this over to our communication with those around us. We should take the time to think about our words and not just “shoot off” at the mouth.

Keep Calm

As I was child I played baseball for years at a local recreational park. Each year I hoped that I would not be on one particular coach’s team simply because every call that did not go his way he would just go off on the umpires. To the point that many games he was tossed from the game! I guess you could say that he had a very short fuse. We all know something like that.

Solomon is saying in the second part of our verse that a man of understanding has an “excellent spirit” or has a “cool spirit”. Having a cool spirit means that one is not soon angry, but is calm,  and not easily provoked to wrath.

Are you a person of “few” words and of an “excellent spirit”?

Lord, I pray that you would make us all men and women of knowledge and understanding. May our words be thought out and spoken wisely and may our demeanors be calm and not easily provoked. May we live our lives in a way that would be pleasing to You!


Stepping on Snakes

Proverbs 17:24

“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

If It Had Been a Snake

I have heard this saying all my life: “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” What exactly does that mean?

One time I heard it after I had been searching for a water hose in some tall grass I should have mowed earlier. My dad and I had to look for the missing hose, so when my foot slipped on the round rubber tube, my dad said, “If it’a been a snake, it would’a bit ya’.”

The meaning is that sometimes we miss the most obvious things, even though they may be right in front of our face.

It Was a Snake

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Credit: Wikipedia

Because we lived next to the woods and near the Tennessee River when I was younger, rattle snakes and copperheads (venomous snakes) were common. One day, when a friend of mine came to visit for the evening, he walked in front of me to the front door of our house. What he failed to see stretched out on the ground in front of him, right below the door, was a 3-foot copperhead. He didn’t see it, but I did – just in time – so I threw him (my friend) off the porch and into the yard (I guess it was the adrenalin).

The reason my friend did not see the snake was because he was looking other places.

Not a Snake

Wisdom is not a snake, but you probably knew that. Yet, why is wisdom so hard for some to recognize? Solomon previously described Wisdom as even crying out in the streets (Prov. 1:20). It’s not like we can call wisdom elusive, can we?

I am reminded of what God said through Moses,

11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.[1]

Wisdom is as close as our face, if we would just pay attention. All it would really take is for one to want to see it.

The Fool Will Get Bitten

Unlike the man with understanding, the fool has his eyes looking around for anything and everything that doesn’t matter.  Instead of recognizing what is in front of his face, he looks up to the stars and across the seas.

In the end, it won’t be wisdom that bites, but another kind of Serpent.


[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Dt 30:11–14.


It’s Healthy To Be Happy

Proverbs 17:22 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Happy Health

Her name is Kay, and she’s my mother-in-law, and without a doubt she’s the happiest person I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  Kay’s happiness is contagious.  There would have to be ice flowing in your veins not to break into a grin when Kay enters the room.  Over the years as my mother-in-law has been deeply transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, a sincere and powerful love for people has grown inside her, a cheerful love that embraces all and disarms all.  Whether Kay’s changing a baby’s diaper or greeting one of the great potentates of industry (and she does both regularly), the same hearty chuckle wells up from within.  And you can’t help but smile along.

The first half of today’s proverb is one of the most quoted of all the Proverbs, and its verity is universally recognized.  Cheerfulness is good for the body.   It’s healthy to be happy.  The second half of the proverb, though not as well known, nonetheless does contain an equally recognized psychological principal.  A crushed spirit or melancholy disposition will tend to manifest itself in physical infirmity.  However, please remember that the proverbs are to be interpreted as principles, and not as promises.  Cheerful people do become ill, and depressed people can be (otherwise) physically healthy.  But those exceptions merely serve to prove the general rule that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Pharmacists of Cheerfulness

Granted, we come into this world with variations in temperament.  Some people tend toward cheerfulness, while others tend toward melancholy.  I count myself in that latter group!  That’s why I need people like Kay in my life.  We need those pharmacists of the merry heart to dispense the good medicine of cheerfulness for its psychological as well as physical benefits. To the reader who would describe herself or himself as a melancholy, I urge you to prayerfully and intentionally seek out friendships with Christian brothers and sisters who have the merry heart.  We need them!

Christ’s Joy and Our Responsibility

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  This verse is found in the context of Jesus telling the disciples that He is the True Vine, and we are the branches.  In a vital, dynamic relationship of faith with the Son of God, His joy overflows to us.

However, to return to the metaphor of the pharmacy, it’s our responsibility to drop off the Rx and pick up the meds.  Is the marrow drying from your bones? Take some time alone with Jesus.  Remember, re-claim, and re-apply the promises of the gospel to your life.  Make a list of the things that are good in your life, for which you are grateful to God.  Pray for a fresh anointing of His joy.

Recommended Reading

For further study, order yourself a copy of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure.

Father God:  I pray for the reader whose spirit is broken, and the marrow of joy has dried within.  Touch the reader with the unconditional love of the Lord Jesus, and renew his or her joy this day.  May cheerful, Godly laughter overflow.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.    


Tibetan Bookstore

Proverbs 17:16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (KJV)
Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?” (NIV)

Our world is constantly pursuing wisdom.

Just look in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and in many ads on TV and at bus stops.

There are numerous self-help books, videos, and seminars. New Age gurus push their spiritual teachings in each of these venues.

Dietitians sell their knowledge.

Parenting experts share their learning.

Pastors sell their understanding.

Financial experts sell their know-how.

Some people buy all of the expensive gear to climb the mountains of Tibet to buy a relic from Tibetan monks.

And yet we keep buying more.

Why?

Because we keep failing. We do not live up to the standards that are set. We do not see results quickly enough. We do not understand why it never works.

That is what this verse is speaking about today.

Our world wants wisdom, but we never want to take the time to understand it.

If we do seek to understand wisdom, we often take whatever is quickest, easiest, or most appealing to our wants, desires, or circumstances.

The catch is that we fail to turn to God with complete honesty.

If they can not be completely honest with God, if they admit He exists, then they do not truly wish to understand wisdom … no matter how much they are willing to pay.

What about you?

Creator God, guide us in all wisdom, and help us to understand. Help us realize that true wisdom is found in Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.