The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 3: Joy in Wisdom [1 of 2]
When we walk with Him, we learn His ways, His wisdom, His love, and His boundless joy.
–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 43
Minutes invested in praying for wisdom will save days spent in overcoming mistakes. To advance in joy, first retreat with God.
–Tommy Newberry, The 4:8 Principle, page 142
For to the one who pleases God, he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy.
–Ecclesiastes 2:26a (NABRE)
Our daughter, Hannah, is a competitive gymnast, spending over 20 hours a week training in the gym. Because of this major time commitment, Mary and I had to chunk our tentative vision of Hannah attending public school and heartily embrace the new world order of home school. Yes, we’re those kind of parents! This unconventional lifestyle has challenged us to not only choose an appropriate curriculum, but to establish consistency and discipline in teaching, and it has rewarded us with witnessing Hannah’s joy in learning. She loves school–loves it!–especially math and drawing, and it tickles us when she absorbs phonics and applies it to both her reading and writing. The girl’s already written and illustrated a book! (Of which I possess the only copy, so its value is priceless). If you haven’t guessed already, we’re pretty darn proud of our daughter!
One morning I took over the educational duties while my Proverbs 31 wife scooted off to work. Part of Hannah’s curriculum involves teaching a new Proverb every week, and this particular morning the lesson was Proverbs 10:5 in the New International Reader’s Version (NIrv): “He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” You know, Aesop’s old “Ant and the Grasshopper” fable.
“What does ‘wise’ mean, Dad?” Hannah asked.
“It means to be filled with wisdom.”
“But what’s wisdom?”
“It’s, uh, it’s, well, it’s the application of knowledge,” I replied. Of course these are some big words and even bigger concepts for a forty-nine-year-old, uh, I mean, a five-year-old. “It’s like when we learn something new,” I tried to explain, “then we use what we learned. That’s wisdom.”
But like joy, wisdom is one of those concepts I’ve struggled to wrap my arms around, and my response to Hannah’s query left me unsatisfied. What is wisdom, really? What does it mean to be wise? What does it mean to have wisdom? And how can wisdom bring joy? “It’s a gift from God,” Mary answered when I asked my wife what she thought wisdom was. “And how can a gift from God not bring you joy? It’s like patience in a room full of kids. It’s a gift.” My wife is a very wise woman.
According to Bible Gateway’s dictionary of Bible themes, wisdom is “the quality of knowledge, discernment and understanding characteristic of God himself. True wisdom, seen in the ministry of Jesus Christ, is a gift of the Holy Spirit.” (http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/8361-wisdom). The author of the Deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom wrote: “For [Wisdom] is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness.” (Wisdom 7:25a, 26 NAB). Wisdom is the splendor of God, the brilliance of His character, the reflection of His holiness.
The first Proverb Hannah memorized as part of her first grade My Father’s World curriculum was Proverbs 9:10, “If you really want to become wise, you must begin by having respect for the Lord. To know the Holy One is to gain understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIrV). This first step to gaining wisdom is a common theme running throughout the Bible: “And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord–that is wisdom . . . .’” (Job 28:28a NIV). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it. His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111:10 NAB). “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD.” (Sirach 1:12a NAB).
But if fear of the Lord is opening the door to wisdom, how do we invite her in? All we gotta do is ask! “But if any of you lacks wisdom,” James wrote in his epistle to the twelve tribes, “he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.” (James 1:5 NAB). Ask and you shall receive, as Jesus said, but ask with a reverent, expectant heart. Take King Solomon, for example. When God told him He’d grant any request Solomon asked for, Solomon answered “’Give me, therefore, wisdom and knowledge to lead this people, for otherwise who could rule this great people of yours?’” (2 Chronicles 10 NAB). He didn’t ask for riches, treasures, and glory, but wisdom. In reply, God not only granted Solomon’s request, but He also gave him the riches, treasures, and glory Solomon had left unspoken. Wisdom is more precious than anything, because “if riches be a desirable possession in life, what more rich than wisdom who produces all things?” (Wisdom 8:5 NAB). Indeed, Solomon came to be known as the wisest (and richest) man who ever lived. “But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” Jesus preached in Matthew 6:33, “and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33 NAB).
Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes