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Wisdom Is Not Enough

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Hear, my son, and accept my sayings
And the years of your life will be many.
I have directed you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in upright paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be impeded;
And if you run, you will not stumble.
Take hold of instruction; do not let go.
Guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked
And do not proceed in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, do not pass by it;
Turn away from it and pass on. –Proverbs 4:10-15

There are two parts to this pep talk from father to son:

  1. Take hold of, protect, and guard instruction and discipline
  2. Do not enter the path of the wicked–stay away from it, don’t pass by

I think sometimes we have this idea that if you have some wisdom, you are safe. You still have a responsibility to keep to the path of righteousness. Jesus said you and I are the light of the world. Still, if I so choose today, I could take this light into a brothel or go rob a bank or any number of things.

Nobody necessarily sets out to do those things, but wisdom and instruction are not enough in themselves. It’s abundantly clear from Solomon’s own life. He was considered the wisest king and wisest person on earth with fame and fortune untold. Still, by taking so many foreign wives with their own gods, he was drawn off into idolatry and failed to serve the Lord completely.

The path of the wicked is only clear in the context of relationship with God. In His light, we see light (Psalm 36:9). When we lose sight of that reality, our wisdom becomes another commodity and a trap.

For they cannot sleep unless they do evil;
And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
And drink the wine of violence. –Proverbs 4:16-17

I looked up the meaning of “wicked” in the Hebrew and it says, “guilty one or criminal, hostile to God.” Starting down the path of the wicked leads to a life full of compulsion. Hostility toward God and our own guilt amplifies things and stirs us on. Who are some of the worst people who do the worst things? A lot of times, it’s people who have known of God and then walked away.

That’s not to say you should never be around guilty people or even those hostile to God. Jesus did it all the time, but He was not only filled with wisdom, but discernment. John 1:14 says He was full of grace and truth. He knew the path He was walking on and He wouldn’t deviate from it.

And if you notice, the sinners weren’t the ones necessarily hostile to God. They didn’t know where to go. They felt “less than” and on the fringes. They saw Jesus and recognized a way out. It was the religious leaders who made people stumble, ate the bread of wickedness, and drank the wine of violence–violence that ended in Jesus’ death.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know over what they stumble.–Proverbs 4:18-19

Even though it may seem obscured at times, you can trust the righteous path is getting brighter and brighter. The wicked stumble around and can never figure out what the trouble is.

Wisdom and instruction is good, but not enough.

Righteousness comes through sustained relationship with Jesus.

Your turn: have you found this to be true in your own life? How have you seen it played out?


Another in a series of posts where I go through Proverbs a verse (or more) at a time and share what the Holy Spirit impresses on me (click here for more verse by verse posts).

8 Comments

  1. The verse, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” says it all for me. We BEGIN with fear of the Lord and then live our lives in a process much like the one Abraham went through of learning to be immediately and completely obedient. We start with fearing God to begin wisdom’s activity in our lives, but there is so much more that comes after, which you get into in your post. Solomon’s example is a sober one, for sure. Wisdom just isn’t enough. There’s so much more involved in living a righteous life.
    Kari Scare recently posted..3 Ways to Reduce Busyness & Discover SimplicityMy Profile

    • Amen. Fearing God plants the seed and then we walk with Him to cultivate what’s started. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him we can nothing. Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t be able to do much, but we would be able to do nothing--nothing in the realm of His righteousness and Kingdom anyway. Thanks Kari!

  2. Excellent point and example from the life of Solomon. If he could fail any of us can fail… and likely have. The flesh is weak indeed and wisdom only takes us so far. Thanks for the timely post, Jason.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Floyd. Wisdom grounded in relationship with Him takes us far. Apart from Him, it will become a trap. Knowledge puffs up and we’ll end up in pride and arrogance. Don’t like it, but it’s true! Thanks again.

  3. Through the years I have met wise people in business, ministry and in their homes. Yet some of these at one point in their life gave into the lust of the flesh and did not make wise choices. I too think pride was the door the lust of the flesh walked through and pride shut that door to hearing God’s voice. That’s what all the “take heeds” are about in the Word. Anytime I let my pride result in anger it takes over and wisdom is not what flies out of my mouth. Great challenge brother…I am taking heed.
    Betty Draper recently posted..Standing In The Need of PrayerMy Profile

    • Great way to explain that, and for sure, I’m challenged about pride resulting in anger that overrides. I have to let God continue the work He started and bring me into His fullness. It’s what I want! Thanks Betty.

  4. Great post.
    Some of my closest friends are atheists. For awhile this bothered me because satan had me question my own devotion to God. But after seeking God’s council I’ve come to understand how Jesus walked among sinners and was so comfortable with them. It wasn’t that He was compromising (as the religious leaders thought)it was that He had a close relationship with God that helped me stay focused on being Kingdom Minded while He loved those in the world.
    I think it’s key that we not seclude ourselves with only like minded people but mingle with those who don’t share our beliefs, HOWEVER, we must stay plugged into God- His light, His wisdom, His will and so on.
    Satan dances in the shadows, to not be swept away in the dance we must make sure God is the one leading.
    Hope that makes sense.

    • You are so right. It takes both or we’re headed for disaster. Thanks for sharing your experience, TC. Always appreciate the honesty.

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