How to Become Wise

July 23, 2013

How to Become Wise
Kyle Johnston

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Kyle Johnston

How to Become Wise

The Scarcity and Importance of Wisdom 

In our age of information, it is sobering to realize that true wisdom is scarce. However, both counselors and counselees require wisdom a great deal. Counselors need discernment in order to give wise counsel, and counselees need wisdom in order to sensibly apply the counsel they receive. Without wisdom, truly successful counselling cannot occur.

Unfortunately, many counsellors and counselees don’t aim high enough in their counseling endeavours—settling for mere symptom reduction instead of genuine sagacity. Such counseling often lacks depth, relevance, and profundity. Sadly, any short-term gains tend to eventually result in long-term losses. A focus on developing wisdom, however, would help counselors and counselees practically, spiritually and eternally.

But if wisdom is so valuable, then how does one acquire it? How does one become wise?

Thankfully, God has given us an entire book of the Bible, the book of Proverbs, dedicated to helping us understand the pursuit of wisdom. In particular, there is a passage in the book of Proverbs that shows us exactly how to pursue wisdom.

The Psycho-spiritual Process of Becoming Wise

Take some time to read the verses below, slowly:

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you (Proverbs 2:1-11).

Notice, in the first four verses, the eight verbs which describe the pursuit of wisdom: “receive”, “treasure up”, “attentive”, “inclining”, “call out”, “raise”, “seek” and “search.” The point is clear: much effort, psychological and spiritual, is required in order to obtain wisdom. Effort must be expended for one to become wise.[1] Treasure hunters don’t give up easily, they are persistent! Similarly, those ‘hunting’ for wisdom need to persevere, being willing to expend the effort that such a whole-hearted and God-centered pursuit will require.

Also notice the object of the pursuit: “my words”, “my commands”. Biblical scholar Bruce Waltke points out that in this passage, “the words in view are the admonitions and sayings in the collections that follow”[2] (that is, those found in the entire book of Proverbs, but especially chapters 10-31). In other words: those that want to become wise must be willing to study, internalize, and apply Solomon’s sage aphorisms. One must know the book of Proverbs intimately.

And what happens if one does this? What if a counselee meets these conditions, and sets out to deeply study and practically apply the book of Proverbs to their life? What would the consequences be?

The Result of Knowing Proverbs Intimately and Practically

Verse 5-11 tells us: that counselee will not only become wise, but they will enjoy the protective spiritual-and-ethical benefits such wisdom brings into their life.

Through their diligent study of His Word, God will grant people wisdom, and such discretion will act as a hedge around their life. Through this knowledge, God protects people, granting them ethical discernment and mature spiritual knowledge. “There is no tension between the Lord protecting His saints (see vv. 7-8) and the saints’ character guarding them against evil.”[3] God’s protection becomes effective for people through their reformed character. Those who have deeply understood and practically applied the Proverbs to their lives enjoy the protective benefits of wise living. Wisdom pays generously.

What a remarkable passage! Wisdom is available. Sagacity can be yours, through hard effort yes, but it can definitely be yours. Wisdom, more valuable than anything else, can be your personal possession through internalizing and applying the book of Proverbs.

Is this something you want? Perhaps you are a counselee, in need of such protective spiritual-and-ethical benefits. If so, run to the book of Proverbs and seek to know and apply its contents to your life.

Perhaps you are a counselor, but up until this point, you have settled too low in your aims regarding how to help your clients. Instead of seeking to empower them to live wisely, you have been content to let them remain dependent upon your wisdom for far too long.

Commend the study of Proverbs to your counselees; study it yourself and help them understand how to apply its most relevant teachings to their most pressing needs. Seek to help them incarnate the wisdom of God into the practical details of their lives. Counselors, don’t settle for mere symptom-reduction, aim to empower your counselees to live wisely!

May God bless you and grant you wisdom, both in your personal life and in your counseling endeavors, as you seek to grow in your knowledge of Him.

[1] Sid S. Buzzell, “Proverbs” In vol. 1, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 909.

[2] Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2004), 220.

[3] Waltke, Proverbs, 228.