Got Wisdom? Part 2

How Do We Cultivate Wisdom?

Let’s dive into Proverbs chapter 9. As in the first eight chapters of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a female. This is not because women are wiser than men. The author (likely Solomon) may have done so because the Hebrew word for wisdom is a feminine noun.

Verse 1          Wisdom has built her house;

                                she has set up its seven pillars.

It is noteworthy that Wisdom has built a house and, as we shall see, she has not constructed it shabbily nor for her own exclusive use. According to the Reformation Study Bible, the significance of having seven pillars is unclear. However, in the Bible, the number seven often symbolizes perfection or completeness; thus, the pillars may represent the perfection of divine wisdom.[i] A house with pillars is very large—such a place must have a strong foundation; otherwise, those pillars are just decorations doomed to fail.

The Hostess with the Mostest

A house is a shelter, but it is also a home, where family and friends are usually welcomed and cared for. Wisdom has readied this home to receive guests:

Abraham van Beyeren, Banquet Still Life, after 1655. Oil on canvas, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Verses 2-4

She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;                                   she has also set her table.                 
She has sent out her servants,         
and she calls from the highest point of the city,  
“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
Wisdom’s banquet table is not laden with a meager fare—the spread is lavish and prepared with great care and expense. Wisdom is also generous with her invitation: she dispatches her servants to broadly extend the welcome. 

Verses 4b-6     To those who have no sense she says,

                                 “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.

                                   Leave your simple ways and you will live;

                                   walk in the way of insight.”

The word simple in verse 4 does not mean the invited guests lack intelligence; it refers to the untutored and inexperienced. The phrase, Those who have no sense (v. 5) refers to people who “lack heart or the will to think and act rightly.”[ii] So, even those who fail daily in their thinking and actions are invited to partake of wisdom’s banquet. This is good news: it means there is hope for any of us to live better lives and to walk with insight—but there is a catch. We must respond to the invitation and then leave our naivete and nonsense behind. To cultivate wisdom, then, we must first do two things: 1) recognize our need for wisdom and 2) RSVP “Yes.”

To cultivate wisdom, then, we must first do two things: 1) recognize our need for wisdom and 2) RSVP “Yes.”

Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

If you have ever thrown a big party, then you have likely sent out invitations, either by snail mail or an evite. Either way, you need guests to respond by a certain date so you can plan for enough seating and food. Most of us know the proper protocol is to give a timely reply, but there are usually some slackers among the invited.

A quick perusal of party planners’ online complaints about non-responding ne’er-do-wells (for example, check out Scary Mommy’s post–warning: profanity alert) reveals that these guests usually fall into one of four categories :

Group 1) They are waiting for a better offer.

Group 2) They are overwhelmed by life’s decisions: Choosing between ranch dressing or Italian freezes their brains, never mind their deciding what they will be doing three months down the road.

Group 3) They are unable to make a commitment—to anything or anyone.

Group 4) They are completely disorganized. Your invitation got thrown out with last night’s takeout or it is now under their sofa, not to be seen again until they move.

I can understand hesitating if parties aren’t your thing, or if the event in question is sure to be a snore (no need to editorialize to your host, a polite “Unable to attend” will do) or, #pandemic, but honestly, I’ve never been one to turn down a free meal in a beautiful space. But if you must, then at least make your reply a timely “No, thank you.”

Find the Wise Ones

Verses 7-10 make me wonder if Solomon was given a cosmic glimpse of 21st-century America! During the 2020 election, I posted on Facebook what I thought was a benign comment (#Ineedwisdom). But quicker than you can say, “Silence persuades where speaking fails” (Shakespeare had wisdom) insult and abuse ensued!

Verses 7-10     Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Sadly, there will always be those who turn down Wisdom’s offer: in particular, the mockers and scoffers mentioned in verses 7 and 8. They are without good judgment; they sneer at good sense and the ways of the Lord. Wisdom is saying, Don’t waste your time arguing with those who mock faith and common sense.

Verse 9            Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
                          teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Instead, go to the already-wise, because they are the ones receptive to learning about things they don’t know. In verse 9, we see that it is the wise one who understands there is always an opportunity to learn.  Jesus taught this principle in Matthew 13:12: “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” There is no shame in not knowing—but there is potential harm in not going to where wisdom is found.

We Aren’t Fooling Anyone

If we lack wisdom or ability in a certain area, the worst thing we can do is to pretend we have it. First, we can’t fool God, and second, we certainly won’t fool other people for very long. Depending on the situation, our pretense will lead to trouble (or even tragedy).

For instance, corporations are now contending with a disturbing trend as they seek new employees: interviewees are hiring friends—or strangers—to stand in for them during virtual interviews, and it is not just because of interview anxiety. Often, candidates lack the technical skills these jobs demand and they are willing to lie their way into these positions (and have others lie for them as stand-ins during the interview)! This is baffling—even in an inept office environment, I imagine an employee can bluff his way through the day only for so long.

In a recent New York Times article, an engineer recalled that during a new hire’s first week on the job, the engineer asked him to complete a data visualization exercise identical to the one done during the interview. I have no idea what “data visualization exercise” is, and apparently neither did the new hire: he ran out of the room and resigned.[iii]

The Main Course—Eat Up!

In verse 10, Wisdom reveals her banquet’s main course:

                                    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

                                     and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

The Reformation Study Bible states that this idea of the fear of the Lord is the “controlling principle of Proverbs, and it is ancient Israel’s decisive contribution to the human quest for knowledge and understanding. The fear of the Lord is the only basis of true knowledge. This ‘fear’ is not the distrustful terror of God, but rather the reverent awe and worshipful response of faith to the God who reveals Himself as Creator, Savior, and Judge.”[iv]

Psalm 53:1 teaches us this truth: it is the “fool [who] says in his heart, “There is no God.” But let’s remember that to acknowledge God as our Creator is the beginning of wisdom. Such a realization is not the culmination of wisdom. Believers in God can remain in belief’s infancy (1 Cor. 14:20) and make foolish decisions out of pride or ignorance of the scriptures (haven’t we all?). And lately, Christians online are apt to come across more as mockers and scoffers than as people who are living out the love of Jesus.

It is God, by His grace, who sustains our lives as we live out His wisdom and His will, instead of our own. This concept is borne out in verse 11.

                                    For through wisdom your days will be many,

                                    and years will be added to your life.

We should understand verse 11 as a principle, not a prophecy. Surely, we all know very wise people whose lives were cut short through no fault of their own. But, in general, making wise choices can extend our lives (ever hear of the Darwin Awards?).

In Part 3 of this series on wisdom, we will look at a competing invitation to Wisdom’s offer.


[i] Reformation Study Bible (2016). See note on Prov. 9:1. Reformation Trust Publishing, Sanford, Florida. Accessed on Biblegateway.com.

[ii] Ibid. See note on Prov. 9:4.

[iii] Goldberg, E. (2022, February 17) “Do You Know Who That Worker You Just Hired Really Is?” New York Times.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/business/jobs-hiring-fraud.html

[iv] Reformation Study Bible (2016). See note on Prov. 9:10. Accessed on Biblegateway.com.

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