Last summer, I drove by an old building titled Wisdom House. We were an in an unfamiliar area and the passenger in my car blurted out, “That doesn’t sound very Christian.”
I was quick to bristle.
Because I raised my kids in the homeschool sector, I’m familiar with the sentiment. It’s the horrible grievance my heroine’s sister committed in Heart of Petra. She “bowed down to an Institute of Humanism.” (She went to college.)
This sentiment about the education system isn’t uncommon from more conservative people. Of course, it isn’t a reason everyone teaches at home or thinks banning books is a valid idea.
I was told after my one semester at college that I became so liberal. So, so liberal. When I read the book, Educated, it enabled me to process many thoughts regarding the words “wisdom” and “knowledge.” But I still don’t know why they niggle. Maybe because I never finished school, and I don’t understand the jargon in the echo chamber of academia—I only know what’s in mine. It doesn’t explain, though, why I still have a latent fear of my children pursuing higher education, yet it’s exactly what I want them to do.
When I look at the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16, and Jesus’ comment that “The children of this age are more wise/shrewd than the sons of light,” I get the sense that it’s a shame Christians aren’t more shrewd. The parable he gives shows how the unjust manager used all he had access to. He did not squander his opportunity or resources. He invested in his future because he believed there would be a reckoning.
This is a theme I loved about Hidden Figures. They moved forward because they used all the resources they had access to, even if they didn’t like the packages the resources came in.
We are foolish when we do not use all our resources. We are fools when we do not believe there will be a reckoning.
Of course, we need balance. It is important to be shrewd and gentle.
Possibly, some of the fear from the Christian perspective comes from the verse that speaks of demonic wisdom. But James 3:15 isn’t describing wisdom in general as demonic. He says there are two types.
Selfish ambition motivates the demonic type. This makes me think I should be more concerned with my private intentions than what books are in the library.
Wisdom from God
I’ve been reading through Proverbs again, picturing Wisdom as the BibleProject describes: a woman with her arms open and a table set. She invites us. Not elusive. Not elite.
And before we nitpick definitions to say there is a difference between wisdom and modern knowledge, or that Christians need one, not the other; Solomon reiterates we should earnestly seek wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
I know there’s a question about whether Solomon followed the Lord at the end of his life after all the wisdom he obtained… but if he departed, it wasn’t because the wisdom God gave him. It was disobeying Deuteronomy 17:17. There are lots of pastors and teachers who have fallen at the end of their career. It doesn’t automatically negate everything they said at the beginning.
Solomon reveals what wisdom is many times. It’s the fear of the Lord.
Keep reading, and you discover that to fear the Lord is to hate sin. Which should be easy for us. Christians love to hate a few sins. Not destructive ones like arrogance, dissension or temper, um, a few different ones…
I think my tendency is to downplay my own sin, since I feel like I (probably) have that under control. But when I think of the prophets who had revelation of God, and how they reacted with that knowledge, it presses on me that no one had room to blame others. Standing before God, they only thought of themselves. Jeremiah cried, “Woe is me! I am a sinful man with unclean lips!” when he saw God.
And when Simon Peter was called, he threw himself down at Jesus’s feet and said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
The prophets who understood who God was had an intense loathing of their own sin…and when they looked at the world’s sin, they did not blame. They wept.
And in the New Testament, when people come to the knowledge of God, their first reaction is fear and then they glorify God.
Fear or Blame
Of course, when Adam came face-to-face with God, his first reaction was to point his finger. Eve followed suit by blaming instead of working out her salvation with fear and trembling. So consider the end result of the two reactions when you face God.
When Jesus says “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children,“ I think you can withhold judgment about things that seem wise until they play out. You can say, “The verdict isn’t in,” about everything until you see the end-fruit.
How to Pursue wisdom
Maybe you aren’t comfortable with just letting it play out. And you want to know if you are moving forward in wisdom since it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I think our task is simple.
This is a perfect example of how two opposing things can be simultaneously true. Trust and fear in equal measure.
I want to be a house of wisdom, shrewd and full of knowledge, because I am a house of God. I don’t assume I know everything there is to know about God. Seeking instead to learn, and bring out new treasures with the old.