Gaining True Wisdom from the Word of God
“Whatever you ask I shall give you” (2 Chronicles 1:7; 1 Kings 3:5). If we could have anything, if this was said to us or in making birthday wishes, how would we respond? When God said this to new King Solomon, he asked for “wisdom and knowledge,” and he said, “Give your servant a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil.” Pleased that Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, glory or for the life of his enemies, the Lord gave him a wise and discerning heart like no other before or since (2 Chronicles 1:10-12; 1 Kings 3:9-12).
Wisdom really is more valuable than money, power, fame or any other worldly thing one might wish for. As the Proverb says, “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment” (4:7). Sirach adds, “Happy the man who meditates on wisdom and reasons intelligently” (14:20). We need to be wise to know how best to live a good life, to be able to focus on the things that truly matter and discern truth, and have good sense, reason and judgment. As something that should be highly sought after, wisdom can be learned by experience and teaching, and it can also be a grace and virtue. Wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the careful application of wisdom in practical affairs – which is known as prudence – is one of the cardinal virtues upon which the moral life turns.
Of all the various sources of learning wisdom, it is precisely sacred scripture which offers the richest and most fruitful lessons. In fact, the books Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach, and parts of the Psalms, are classified as “wisdom literature,” offering extensive instruction, guidance and sayings about the wise person.
“The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord,” teaches the book of Sirach (1:14). True wisdom consists in appreciating that there are things greater than ourselves, and in respectfully and humbly submitting to that majesty of God. Meanwhile, the Psalmist counsels us to not be like the fool who says, “there is no God,” and foolishly put our trust in mortal men, but to look to the Lord for salvation (Psalm 14:1, 146:3). By opening our hearts and minds to God in this way, we open ourselves to his divine wisdom, which Pope Francis explains, is “the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: it is to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything through God’s eyes. This is wisdom.”
To live well, we need to be like the wise man who built his house on a foundation of rock, rather than like the foolish man who built on sand (Matthew 7:24–27). It is by building our lives on the rock of the wisdom of God – including the wisdom of the Cross that the world sees as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) – which reveals to us what is lacking in our own limited human knowledge and reason, and thus best teaches us how to be truly wise so as to lead a good and happy life.