By Raymond E. Harris
Man’s interest in wisdom dates back to Adam and Eve. The serpent used the promise of wisdom to tempt Eve. In Genesis 3:5-6, the serpent urged Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by promising: “Then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” As Eve pondered the situation, she determined that the fruit of the tree was “to be desired to make one wise.” And they both ate thereof.
However, we must hasten to draw a clear distinction between wisdom and education. Obviously both a parrot and a fool can be educated. Webster, tells us that “wisdom” is “the ability to judge soundly and deal shrewdly with facts.” In other words wisdom is the good sound “common sense” to use our knowledge and ability in the best possible way.
In the New Testament, in James 3:13, it is written: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” In that verse, James stresses that it is wise to be “good. ” That is obviously true at all levels.
1. The “good,” well-behaved child will be blessed by the good will of parents.
2. The “good,” well-behaved student will be blessed by the good will of teachers.
3. The “good,” well-behaved Christian will be blessed by the good will of God.
And conversely the Bible warns, “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15).
Also, it is to be noted that in James 3:13 wisdom is coupled with meekness. Surely we would all have to agree with such a declaration. The arrogant, high-minded, conceited person may be very intelligent but seldom displays much real wisdom. Rather, we would suggest that even the most brilliant, are counted wise when they are humbled by how little we humans really know and understand.
A Wise Man Receives Counsel
As man craves to be wise, it seems he often plays the fool. Mother Eve played the fool when she for a moment questioned the integrity of God and proceeded to eat the “forbidden fruit.” Likewise, it is anything but wise to live a life of disobedience, evil and wickedness. Truly, “The way of the transgressor is hard.”
But, just who is a wise man? We suggest that a wise man is one who hearkens to counsel. In the long ago, Solomon wrote, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov. 12:15). Hence, most of us have observed that no one can tell a fool anything! Also, the Scriptures caution that we need to be wise in selecting our counsel. You will remember that David said, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psa. 1:1).
Indeed, it is sad when the egotistic and self-centered are so foolish as to try to direct their own steps (Jer. 10:23) or turn to the ungodly for advice.
1. It is indeed a wise man who will turn to the word of God and allow the Almighty to lead him to the green pastures and still waters of life.
2. It is a wise Christian (elder, preacher, church member) who continues through life with an open mind and an objectivity that allows him to ever learn and grow, so long as he lives out the days of his life.
Conversely, it is indeed a fool who is so presumptuous that he develops an all knowing, self-righteous attitude that causes him to close his eyes, stop his ears and harden his heart against all that would challenge his personal prejudices.
A Wise Man Guards His Tongue
Regarding wise men Solomon said, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Prov. 10: 19). The same writer continues in the same vein as he further explains, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
Then in the New Testament, in James 1:19-20, it is written: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
It is sad that foolish mankind has generally so abused the blessing of speech. Of all creation, only mankind has the mental and physical capability to speak and clearly and distinctly communicate. One would think that we would be grateful recipients of this blessing and use our ability to speak, to educate, praise, commend and encourage one another. Such are the words of the wise!
However, it is obvious that many ungratefully and foolishly use their lips to curse, gossip, blaspheme, rail and lie! Beware those who spew forth nasty words, filthy stories, flattery and deceit. Truly, “. . he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10).
The Master has warned, “. . . by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).
A Wise Man Flees From Evil
Did you ever hear someone you considered “wise” say, perhaps in jest, “I’ll try anything once.” Really, the remark is the height of foolishness. A moment’s reflection is all that is necessary to realize that the remark portrays anything but wisdom. Who really wants to try murder, bank robbery, rape, cancer, blindness or Hell?
In fact, we would like to stress that the “wise” are those who fear and depart from evil. The writers of the Bible go to great lengths to impress their readers with the awfulness of sin. All sin is primarily against God. And so, everyone must answer to God for his. sins.
To short sighted man, sin seems to offer so much, when in fact the reverse is true. “The way of the transgressor is hard.” The Apostle Peter warned, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Seeing then that all these things will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:10-11).
Long ago Solomon wrote, “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil” (Prov. 14:16). And David added, “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psa. 1:5-6).
Who is a wise man? The wise, realize the wages of sin is death (spiritual separation from God) and flee evil!
A Wise Man Is Prepared
A wise person is a prepared person. We propose to sustain the foregoing proposition by considering one main passage of Scripture.
Matthew 7:24-27: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock, and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (NKJV).
In this passage it is obvious that Jesus is talking about more than the building of literal houses. His main concern is whether or not people will hear and heed his teaching.
The Master knew the storms, floods and winds of life would beat upon every generation of mankind. He knew that only the wise – the prepared would be able to survive. Also, he knew that it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps. Hence, the only way to be prepared for the onslaughts of life is to build on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The wise know that trials, disappointments, tragedies and despairs will stalk them sooner or later. Therefore, the wise will hear and heed the commandments and doctrines of Jesus. Those who become Christians, must commit their very lives and souls to Jesus. Those who day by day strive to be at peace with God, their fellow man and themselves will find the ways of life much simpler to navigate.
Truly it is a wise man who puts his trust in Jesus and prepares himself for the struggles of life by donning the whole armor of God.
A Wise Man Obeys God
As we consider the characteristics of the wise, we address ourselves to the most important of all. We are convinced that the one who is truly wise will hear and obey the Lord.
In James 1:22, the inspired man wrote: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” From the foregoing verse it is obvious that knowing the word of God is not sufficient. One may be well versed in the Scriptures and still refuse to do the will of God. An awareness of the contents of the Bible does not automatically bring forgiveness and salvation.
Obviously one must know the will of God before he can do the will of God; but, the doing is as vital as knowing.
In Hebrews 5:9 it is written: “And having been perfected, he (Jesus, REH) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” From this passage we see that the bottom line to going to heaven depends upon personal submission and obedience to Jesus. We must:
1. Believe that Jesus is God’s son (John 3:18).
2. Repent (turn from, quit) of our sins (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30).
3. Confess that Jesus is God’s Son (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10).
4. Be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-5).
The Master warned: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
And, the wise man of old put it well when he wrote: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 16, pp. 488-489
August 20, 1987