Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: What This Book Accomplishes
Preacher: Jenniffer Ogden
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Proverbs 1:1-7 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: It’s been said that the difference between wisdom and knowledge is this: Knowledge is that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting tomatoes in fruit salad.
The difference between wisdom and knowledge is that wisdom gives a person the tools to deal with each circumstance in their lives differently, because no two situations are alike. Knowledge can inform wisdom, but knowledge is not wisdom because it is more prescriptive. Knowledge tells you that lying is bad. Wisdom tells you that what Oskar Schindler did to protect the Jews under his care (deceiving Nazis) was good.
The Bible is full of stories that equip the reader with wisdom. It’s a book of stories that are not meant to be prescriptive—thou shalt do or not do this or that—but a revolutionary collection of experiences, written and crafted with intention, to guide the reader into a life of wisdom that would be good for “teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The book of Proverbs is a classic example of this. If you take the book of Proverbs as a prescriptive book of Wisdom, you will find yourself in trouble in a quick hurry. For instance, in Proverbs 26:4, we are advised, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” Sounds like a very good piece of advice. Yet, if we were going to take this a prescriptive rule, the very next verse would have us not knowing what to do. It says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
Now wait a minute. Am I to answer a fool or not answer a fool? If we were to read the Bible—or even just the book of Proverbs—as a rulebook full of prescriptive directives, we’d be caught in the middle—not knowing which of these statements was true. If, on the other hand, we understand the Bible to be full of stories that give us wisdom for our current situation/culture/circumstance, we can look at the predicament we find ourself in and make a wise decision on how to act. Sometimes we should answer a fool. And sometimes the shouldn’t. It depends.
Proverbs 10:15 would suggest that one should put their confidence in wealth so that one could be protected against calamity. Then Proverbs 11:28 suggests that relying on your wealth to protect you is a really bad idea. Again, it depends on the situation we find ourselves in. (And for the record, I’d like God to supply me with great wealth so I can test these Proverbs fully.)
So, to begin our journey through the book of Proverbs, keep this in mind: Proverbs is a collection of sayings that are intended to give you wisdom for the day-to-day circumstances you may find yourself in. These are not a list of rules; they are wisdom that, when applied in the right time and in the right circumstances, can bring about good results.
Recalibrate: Situational ethics rely on wisdom more than knowledge. Can you think of a time when you had to make a decision that was right in that context but would normally be wrong?
Respond: Like Solomon, pray that God gives you wisdom for the day, supplied by knowledge, to make great decisions.
Remember: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.
Sit in front of a mirror with your little one. Point to your eyes and say, “I have eyes and I can see you.” Point to your ears and say, “I have ears and I can hear you.” Hold up your hands and say,”‘I have hands and they can hold you.” Open your mouth and say, “I have a voice and I can tell you I love yo.”Know that our Heavenly Father sees, hears, and holds us. He speaks value, wisdom, and love over us and around us. Let’s listen, look, and lead our children in love.
Who is the wisest person you have ever met? Someone who is so wise that they know putting a Mento candy in a bottle of Diet Coke outside in the backyard would be much better than doing it in the living room on the carpet? (If you’ve never tried this experiment, check it out here!) There is a guy just like that in the Bible! This was back before Diet Coke was invented, but he is said to have been the wisest man ever. Do you know who that person was? His name was Solomon. How do you think he got to be so wise? He asked God to help him. God told Solomon, “Anything you ask for, I’ll give to you!” Now, take a moment to think about this . . . if you could have anything from God, what would it be? An endless supply of Lego? Five trillion dollars? Your very own water park with the coolest rollercoaster? But Solomon didn’t ask for things; he asked God to give him wisdom so that he could help lead God’s people. Pray that God gives you a special amount of wisdom so that you can live your life for Him!
Let’s pretend for a second that you had a friend whose name was Wisdom. Wisdom was the kind of friend who always somehow knew the right things to do, the right things to say, and never seemed to get into situations that were precarious or awkward. Can you think of a friend who sort of matches that description? I know I can! My friend Donnie is the kind of person who always has something really intelligent to say and can pull up the most distinguished way to say it every time he speaks.
But how did he figure out how to do that? And how come I don’t have the same skill?
Solomon, the author of the book of Proverbs, was like my friend Donnie in that he constantly spoke in ways that showed him to be a wise leader. In Proverbs 1:2, he begins the book with the phrase, “to know wisdom and instruction.” If we were to stop right there, then there is hope for all of us who aren’t like our friend Wisdom (or Donnie) because Solomon says that wisdom and instruction go hand in hand. You can actually learn to be wise! If that is true, then it’s only a matter of time before we all have the ability to be wise guys and girls.
What is something you would like wisdom on? What part of your life could use some instruction? How might you go about asking God to teach you how to be wise?
Have you ever done something that reminded you of your parents? When I was a counselor at Sunset Lake Camp, there were many times when I would say something or act in a certain way around my campers that brought out certain characteristics of my parents. It was honestly one of the strangest things to realize that when you act in a certain way, you manifest various personifications of your parents. Whether you care to admit it or not, we all know that you fold clothes in the way your mom does, or you drive like your dad, or you write like your grandma does. A similar concept applies to us when we exercise a thing called wisdom. You see, you and I were created in the image of God, and because God is the source of wisdom, we manifest the very image of God when we exercise wisdom. What is so fascinating about the Hebrew concept of wisdom is that it is not just about intellectual knowledge but it is a creative ability as well. Hebrew theology teaches us that when God formed the world, He wove it with wisdom. So therefore, when we exercise wisdom, we are bringing out the image of God in us. Isn’t that amazing? Every time you make a wise decision, that is God. So the more we make wise decisions, the more God is manifested in us. What are some ways you could exercise that type of wisdom in your life today?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Emily Ellis is a senior studying theology at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.