Where can I find wisdom? At the most renowned university in the West? Atop a Himalayan mountain in the East? At the bottom of a cereal box? Out in the woods amid the wind in the trees? Inside a Chinese fortune cookie? Where?
“Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine… But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? … The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ –Job 28:1-2,12,14 ESV
I also suspect the cereal box would declare it’s likely not in it, either.
God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens… he saw it and declared it; -Job 28:23-24,27…
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us… that we may do all the words of this law. -Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV
Wisdom can’t be found by man, but God reveals wisdom to man? These two statements seem to conflict. If we humans can’t find wisdom, how can there be “found wisdom” at all, as in my title?
Well, here’s the thing: There’s Wisdom, and there’s wisdom.
Webster’s (big fat) Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1996) gives over four definitions for the word:
1 the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. 2 scholarly knowledge or learning, the wisdom of the schools 3 wise sayings or teaching precepts. 4 a wise act or saying.
What we, and Job, long for, and wish we had within ourselves, perfectly, is the capital-W Wisdom Webster’s defines first.
But the small-w wisdom my series title refers to encompasses the other three definitions. “Found wisdom” can be practical tips for everyday living, scientific knowledge for understanding situations and people more fully, and even insights that give us glimpses of God’s capital-W wisdom and help equip us to act Wisely.
Lesser wisdom like this can be found all around, even in the most surprising places.
Consider where the wisdom Balaam needed to hear came from! (Numbers 22:21-30).
Which story reminds me of a certain church ceremony I and a companion attended, where much was amiss, but the prescribed lesson for the day wasn’t. As we exited the building, I murmured, shaking my head, “God still speaks!”
“Yes,” my companion replied… Then we looked at each other and chorused together, “Even through donkeys!”
So, before we get started here, a word about sources of quotes:
If I quote someone that you don’t think much of, don’t suppose for a minute that I endorse everything (or even anything else) that person says or believes. It is the quoted words only that have rung true for me; so I share them, and tell why. I must give credit to those to whom the words are attributed (though for all I know, some may have gotten wrongly attributed, or were derived from sources these people have regurgitated—perhaps even unconsciously). If certain attributions bother you, try to ignore them, and consider only the words—on their own merit and wisdom value.
Fact is, the first attribution I’ll give here is to a Chinese fortune cookie! That doesn’t mean I look to these novelties as my guide to direct my path. But I have read surprising things now and then on those little enclosures—once even a direct quote from scripture.
Yet even scripture can be mishandled.
So please weigh all the quotes in the spirit of Job’s words about true wisdom that follow his words above::
[God] established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” -Job 28:28.
The most important wisdom lies in our rightly applying the information, practical tips, and insights that come our way to our lives and circumstances. Let’s keep our eyes, minds, and hearts open to “finding” it!
Previous post related to this series: “Write 31 Days”—On Discovering Wisdom