Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Pro 4:7 Msg
In one of my last installments I talked about not relying on your understanding, based on Pro 3:5. That is exactly the same book, the same writer as of our verse today.
What is wisdom?
How different this sounds at first glance. Get wisdom, get understanding, and make it your number one goal.
Reading through the gospels, we find many instances where the writers say “but they did not understand”. Even Jesus asked the disciples whether they understood. It is important to understand. Understanding is not a means to an end. It is the beginning. Let’s look at another translation of this verse:
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever else you get, get insight. Pro 4:7 NRSV
Wisdom starts with asking for it. If you lack wisdom, ask God as the source and he will gladly supply. That is what James tells us.
What is understanding?
Ask for understanding, for insight.
Wisdom in Hebrew does not mean the same as in Greek. In Greek, wisdom is above understanding. Wisdom is a deep understanding of nature and the nature of things, life and society, and to recognize and deal with the problems effectively and efficiently. That is Greek and modern wisdom.
In Hebrew, wisdom is the starting point. It does mean all of the above, and so much more. Wisdom is a way to look at things, a life style, a world view. Early in the bible, wisdom draws from two things: the foundation of a creative God that created everything, and experience. Later, wisdom came to not rely on experience any longer, but the Lord. Wisdom grew. Why? Because people gathered understanding. They knew more about their God.
How to go about it?
Let’s look at all this in a little more detail:
The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom.
This tells us that wisdom grows. Start by getting some, add understanding, get some more wisdom, add understanding, and so forth.
If now wisdom is a deep understanding of nature and the nature of things, life and society, it has to be that from the start, and we grow into a deeper understanding as we add to it.
There are so many ways we could take this to now. For example, we could look at the evolution of man. (Not the ape thing, not the common theory of evolution by Darwin, keep calm.) The understanding of the world by mankind grew and grows over time. That does not mean that we are any better in dealing with the problems we meet effectively and efficiently. On the other hand, we are still here. We dealt with many problems.
But today, I want to go in a slightly other direction.
Where does it lead us to?
Wisdom has a source. Like everything, it comes from God. We saw that in James. Wisdom also has a goal, a destination. It, or as Proverbs put it, she wants to lead people to God. How so?
Wisdom paired with understanding lead to knowledge. Now again, knowledge in the bible has a very different connotation as today. Today we call knowledge all the information that we gathered and readily can recall from our memory. What a pity. The epiphany of small thinking. A shame.
Knowledge is to know somebody, not something.
Knowledge is to know the Father. It is to know the source of wisdom. Knowledge is intimacy. It is so much more than to know about something or even somebody. It is so much more than to belong to somebody.
Wisdom lets us long for the father, as does understanding. So we can be.
Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The goal is the body of Christ, unity. Because if we see him, we see the father.
Wisdom reminds me of the words of God. They do not return to God void. Neither does wisdom.
Wisdom urges us to understand. Wisdom is to create a hunger for understanding. Understanding on the other hand will lead us to a greater hunger for wisdom, because behind the solution to every problem lurk a hundred more questions. But wisdom and understanding are not a goal or destiny in themselves. They always lead to fundamental questions, and they always lead to the source himself. God.
Why do we not find?
Obviously, this is true only if our mind, our soul allows for it. We have a free will, and we therefore can make our own assumptions and axioms. Of course we can rule out the existence of God in the first place. In this case, we will not start with wisdom, but with understanding. And we will lack the basic catalyzing facts to gain wisdom in the first place. That is why we place wisdom at the end of our struggle for understanding and knowledge, because it is so hard to deeply understand nature and the nature of things, life and society, when we lack the basics: that they were created by a loving and just God.
How do we find then?
The world talks about understanding, and measures our ability to understand in a comparative measure called IQ, intelligence quotient. Somebody with an IQ of 100 is average, whereas somebody with an IQ above 155 is considered to be highly intelligent, within the top 2% of humanity. Measuring intelligence is highly questionable, mostly because we define ourselves what the signs of intelligence are. But for the moment, this serves me well on a more abstract level.
Measuring understanding with the IQ falls short. I would rather measure our triplet wisdom, understanding, and knowledge with a triplet of functions: IQ, EQ, and CQ. I am not naive and will not say that they can be assigned to each other, but the three measures span a triangle that can be somewhat congruent to the triangle spanned by our three traits.
IQ measures our ability to think and understand, to make sense of things, to discern models and patterns. Fits our definition of wisdom.
EQ (emotional quotient) measures our ability to build and sustain relationships. Necessary for knowledge.
And CQ? The so called creativity or curiosity quotient drives us forward to add to our wisdom, to add to our understanding, so we can reach a deeper knowledge of the Father.
Do I have to be highly intelligent for wisdom? No. Do I have to be very empathic to sustain a relationship? No. Do I have to be very curious? Yes.
Everybody can start with wisdom, and, if curious enough, accumulate understanding and wisdom and build the relationship with the Father.
How does faith fit in this?
Many times we use faith as an easy way out in our search of knowing the Father. Faith is not the cop out so we do not have to strive for wisdom and knowledge. Faith is the fuel, the catalyst, the energy.
If wisdom comes before understanding, I need faith to accept it. At times God will grant us understanding, as we curiously search for it. And with it, he will give us some more wisdom we will have to just believe for the moment.
Lacking faith will have us doubt and thus derail us from our goal to know him. Lacking curiosity will have us plateau with what we already know, and know of him. God has ways to strengthen our faith. We call them prayer and tongues, but also trials and tests. And God has ways to make us curious again. They stretch from wonders and signs to problems and challenges, from prophecy to dreams and visions to the miracles of nature itself, as Paul tells us.
Again: we cannot gather wisdom if we start from our understanding. We can only gather wisdom by starting from wisdom and applying understanding. We therefore need a basic gift of wisdom from God. We cannot accept wisdom without faith. We therefore need ever growing faith. And the goal is to know him. We therefore need an ongoing and ever growing relationship with him. And we need curiosity to stay at it.
Since this is not where we start, as we have been imprinted differently for such a long time, let us change our thinking. Change our basic assumptions. Accept that everything is created by a loving and just God that wants a relationship with us. He provided the means for this as well. He opened the door at the cross, forgiving your personal sins of wrong thinking, and wrong doing as an outflow of it. And he gladly provides wisdom and faith, so we as curious creatures will understand and get to know him better.
Are we all equal? By no means. Some are more curious, others have a head start thinking or relating. We need each other. The bible tells us to keep on encouraging each other to good deeds. One explains, one asks, one relates a little more easily. Together we will know.
So believe, then think, ask curious questions, and search him out. And then, start over.
Do you understand?