We live in a rapidly changing culture, driven by individual opinions. America has abandoned universal truths in favor of “my truth”. The problem is, not all of those truths are wise. John Stuart Mill said, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.” Our daily world is indeed filled with people who fit that definition.
Go to the Source
The Bible has a different take: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV) All true wisdom, just like all true love, comes only from God. It is part of His character, a reflection of who He is and what He is about. It may come indirectly or be claimed by someone else along the way, but it all comes from Him alone. Apparently it is readily available for the asking, even though people don’t display it much. The book of Proverbs says, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.” (1:20)
Even Shakespeare pointed out that she is available to all who seek her, and yet so many lack her stabilizing presence. God is wisdom’s only source—and James says here that the Lord is willing to give it generously… So why aren’t all men wise?
All Truth is not Self-Evident
Well, first of all, you have to realize you don’t have it. That’s tougher than it sounds. A lot of people think they are wise but, well… perhaps they really aren’t. (Kinda like American Idol try-outs. A lot of people think they can sing, but, well, not so much!)
Second, you have to ask for it. And you have to ask God for HIS wisdom, rather than being egocentric and wrapped up in self-acquired knowledge. Asking for help implies assuming a subordinate position, and it’s amazing how many people are just too proud to do that. (And really, that’s what it almost always boils down to. We tell God, “Lord I want wisdom, but I want it on MY terms”. We want God’s plan handed to us the way WE want it; but isn’t that precluded by the fact that it’s HIS plan??)
Third, Proverbs says that fear (respect, awe) of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but that fools despise it (and Him). If God is real, you’d be a fool not to fear Him. After all, this is the God who created the universe, who upholds all things by the word of His power; this is the God who weighs the nations as dust in the scales, holds the keys to life and death.
There’s Fear and then there is FEAR
But this is also a God who requires faith, who gives evidence but not irrefutable proof, and who allows all men to choose how they will perceive Him.
1 Corinthians 8:2-3 says, “If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” To see God properly and become wise requires that we assume the right perspective. We have to see God as He is, not as we’d like Him to be.
Perspective requires that we humbly acknowledge where true wisdom comes from and ask the Creator for what only He can give. Back in the heyday of boxing, Mohammed Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, you can’t hit what you can’t see.” I think he was describing his own speed and elusiveness, but he could have also been talking about wisdom: if you can’t see it, you can’t hit it.
A lot of people out there dodge and weave through life, proud of how smart they are or how much they have—even as they make foolish choices or head down destructive paths. They may be rich or famous, they may even be smart, but somehow wisdom has eluded them. So, next time you encounter a fool, you’ll know what their real problem is. And next time you act the fool instead of making wise choices, well—at least now you know who to ask, right?
A Call From the Streets
Wisdom wanders in the streets, and even calls aloud,
While millions pass her by because they’re just too smart or proud.
Wisdom, see, is not just facts that people learn in schools,
Or being bright, or having lots of intellectual tools;
(In fact, some who believe they’re wise are really still just fools!)
Some think wisdom is acquired, and work hard at the task,
But James says that it comes from God; we only have to ask!
The next time life requires some wise advice to help you live it,
The Book of James says ask the Lord for some: He’ll surely give it.
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