Connections 09.12.21: Embracing Wisdom

Proverbs 1:20-33

We hear a lot of debates these days about what constitutes knowledge and what characterizes wisdom. Some of us may even engage in such debates.

In our present context, these debates aren’t just academic exercises. They are rather a matter of life and death. The embrace of foolishness rather than wisdom and of delusion rather than knowledge has led, and continues to lead, to many avoidable serious illnesses, deaths, and disasters.

The book of Proverbs urges us to embrace wisdom and knowledge. A lot of what Proverbs advocates for comes down to exercising common sense. But for the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom (v. 29; see 1:7). Its basic stance is that wisdom comes from God, who makes it available to human beings. Wisdom is therefore a gracious gift from the Lord. Our present passage imagines God’s wisdom walking through town, crying out for people to hear and heed the Lord’s guidance and correction. If people do that, they will live a secure and productive life. If they fail to do so, they will experience calamity and panic (vv. 26-27).

There are limits to thinking that embracing God’s wisdom automatically leads to wellness and success while rejecting it automatically leads to unwellness and failure, as Ecclesiastes and Job—other writings in the Hebrew Wisdom tradition that are also in our Bible—point out. But that doesn’t alter the fact that we are better off embracing the Lord’s wisdom than rejecting it. We need to listen to, accept, and put into practice the wisdom that God graciously makes available to us.

We also need to remember that it isn’t just “religious” wisdom that comes from God. All genuine knowledge in all areas of life comes from the Lord too. Still, we certainly want to put into practice the insights that God gives us into how we should love and care for each other.

We Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God’s full revelation of God’s self to the world. In Mark 8:27-38, which is the lectionary’s Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples that his being the Messiah means that he must suffer, die, and then be resurrected. He goes on to tell them that being his followers means that they must also lose their lives. As Jesus’ disciples, we also must lay down our lives.

Since Jesus embodies God’s wisdom, to follow Jesus means that we embrace God’s wisdom as we hear and see it in Jesus. And Jesus tells and shows us that we are to lay down our lives in obedience to God and in service to others. He tells and shows us that we are to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In the context of our current debates, what should following God’s wisdom as Jesus reveals it to us look like?

Discussion

  • What might the imagery of wisdom crying in the streets and squares (v. 20) say about the availability of God’s wisdom to people?
  • Why might people reject God’s wisdom? Why might they choose foolishness instead?
  • What does it mean to fear the Lord? How does fearing the Lord lead to knowledge (v. 29)?
  • How does God make God’s wisdom known to us? How can we determine whether or not we are hearing and heeding God’s wisdom?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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