No One wants to Really Look Foolish

Are you struggling with a bad habit? If you are, you need wisdom. You need a clear and unobstructed view of the road ahead. Wisdom is the ability to anticipate the results of one’s decisions, and the predisposition to choose the best course of action which is the way of righteousness. In other words, wisdom demands that we always do the right thing and doing the right thing is always the best choice. Wisdom results in doing what is right in contrast with doing what is evil. Wisdom is the skill and insight to anticipate what could happen and then chart out a course of action that is free from unnecessary pitfalls.

I am not too sure how I came across this definition of wisdom, but I think the idea crystalized in my thinking when I was studying the book of Proverbs many years ago. You might ask, what is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information and the ability to understand how the facts interrelate. On the one hand, a person can be smart or very intelligent, but lack wisdom. On the other hand, a person may not understand the intricacies of academia and modern technology but be wise. Wisdom is the skill of using the available information to make good and well thought out decisions.

Unfortunately, in our American culture we live in a time when men worship knowledge and the accumulation of facts and wisdom is an afterthought. It is as the Scripture warns us about the end time: “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (NKJV — Daniel 12:4.) Do you see the picture? Many in spite of all of their knowledge, run senselessly in one direction and then in another direction. Haven’t you heard: “we live in the information age.” The world is flooded with information but who knows what to do with it? That is where the wise man or woman comes in.

Acquiring wisdom is an indispensable step in mastering bad habits and overcoming addictions. Becoming wise and acquiring the skills that are granted through wisdom is essential. Failure to anticipate the results of foolish and reckless behavior can be a major factor in perpetuating the cycle of sin and spiritual bondage. Wisdom can be acquired and the skills that accompany it can be mastered. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes speaks of acquiring wisdom when he wrote, “I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness.” (NKJV — Ecclesiastes 7:25.)

We acquire wisdom basically one of two ways: from our mistakes and experiences or by the advice and counsel of other people and sources. We cause ourselves injury by the consequences and sometimes punishments that are the result of our bad choices. Hopefully, we learn from the bruises and wounds that are many times self-inflicted. We learn from the bruises we sustain as is suggested by Proverbs 20:30 (NKJV), “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.” The point of this proverb is that the bruises we suffer as the result of our choices make us less inclined to choose evil. I say “inclined” because I know how things really are. For example, I know a fifteen year old pregnant girl and amphetamine drug user that has said, “When I get this baby out of me I’m going back to doing the things that I was doing before.” Whether we cause our own wounds or whether we are punished by the law, these experiences can give us wisdom—they help us anticipate what will happen if we make the wrong choice.

We don’t have to learn the hard way. We can learn wisdom from a book like the Bible or we can gain wisdom from the counsel of others. This is the point of Proverbs 1:2-4, “To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” (NASB) Receiving good sound advice helps us gain wisdom and is a skill that can be learned.

Until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the wisest man in the Bible was Solomon. Down through the centuries multitudes have been moved by Solomon’s prayer to God for wisdom. When invited to ask anything of the Lord, Solomon asked God for wisdom as he embarked upon his career as Israel’s king. He prayed, “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (NKJV — 1 Kings 3:9.) In the next verse it states, “The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.” (NKJV — 1 Kings 3:10.) No doubt many who have heard the story and have read these words have been encouraged to pray this same prayer. Solomon’s prayer was sincere and selfless without ulterior motives and this is how this request must be made—sincerely and free of selfish motives. But, this is only part of the story.

There is a less familiar part of the story of Solomon’s life—for a wise man, his life didn’t end so well. Centuries before Solomon became king, God had given this warning concerning Israel’s leaders, “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me…. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away….” (NASB — Deuteronomy 17:17.) It is well known that in spite of this command, Solomon acquired many wives. 1 Kings 11:3 states, “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.” How could a wise man totally disregard the command that God had stated hundreds of years before? He had to choose. Unfortunately, Solomon chose to do what he knew was wrong. Similarly, we have to make choices. In our lives we have to make a choice to do the wise thing—the right thing. True wisdom isn’t just the skill to anticipate what could happen, it is making the choice to do what is right.

Solomon chose to ignore God’s command and chose to do evil. He possessed wisdom, but he chose to be a fool. In the next verse, verse 4, it states, “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.” It was Solomon’s acquisitiveness—his desire to have more than a person has a right or need to have—that made him an idolater. He became an idolater when he started stockpiling wives and concubines (compare Colossians 3:5). It should be obvious that Solomon had a sexual addiction. His veneration and worship of foreign gods was a logical step in his downward spiral. Perhaps he turned to idolatry with its pornographic elements and sexual aspects to give himself over fully into his sexual bondage.

How does a person acquire wisdom? First, pray for it. James 1:5 is one prayer that God is always going to answer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5.) Second, the Bible is the source of true wisdom. Begin studying the wisdom literature of the Bible: Proverbs, the Psalms, Eccelesiates (read the last chapter first over and over), the Song of Solomon, and the Epistle of James. Third, listen to the Spirit’s voice. Remember that we are promised that He will teach us all things. 1 John 2:27 states: “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you.” (NKJV.) Although this verse is commonly used to prove that the Spirit will teach us about doctrinal issues, it is obvious He is able to teach us about the day to day things. He is able to teach us how to make wise choices. Finally, surround yourself with mature Christians that can help you sort things out when the Bible hasn’t given a clear or direct answer to your questions.

One final observation. Oftentimes you don’t need to have all of the facts before you can make the best decision. If you know what is moral, the ethical and righteous thing to do, that is the best choice. The randomness of life, with all of its unforseen catastrophes, will provide enough dangers and threats to life and limb. It is both foolish and unnecessary to make choices that open the way for even more catastrophes and chaos in our lives. The foolish man thumbs his nose at dangerous risks. The wise man recognizes the pit falls and avoids danger.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. (NKJV — Proverbs 18:10)

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