What Is The Bible Definition Of Wisdom? How Are We Wise In God’s Eyes?

What Is The Bible Definition Of Wisdom? How Are We Wise In God’s Eyes? May 22, 2015

What is wisdom? How does the Bible define it? How can we be wise before God’s eyes?


What is Wisdom?

Wisdom isn’t simply intelligence or knowledge or even understanding. It is the ability to use these to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. That is my definition anyway. You don’t get wisdom out of a textbook. You don’t get knowledge enough to make you wise. You don’t receive understanding from simply hearing others. Experience might be one of the most valuable tools in acquiring wisdom. That is to say, what we learn from experience gives us the wisdom whether to try a particular thing or make a certain choice or not. You can hear lectures on swimming, you can read books on swimming, and you can understand the buoyancy of water from observation but until you jump in the water and get some experience, you won’t have true wisdom about the water and that may make all the difference between swimming and drowning.   Experience is often the best teacher.

The Beginning and End of Wisdom

Wisdom begins and ends with the fear of the Lord. It isn’t a fear of being struck by lightning or fear of being struck dead but it’s a deep, abiding, holy reverence and respect for the Lord and for His Word, the Bible. The Book of Proverbs has more to say about wisdom than any other book in the Bible. For example in Proverbs 9:10 Solomon, who was the wisest man on earth, at least until Christ came, said that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Where there is fear, there tends to be obedience and God has said He prefers obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22; Hosea 6:6). Sometimes obedience comes before understanding and when someone obeys what they know to be true, understanding usually follows. Wisdom begins with reverence for God and a fear for Him and His Word. That’s where wisdom begins. Where there is no fear of the Lord, there can never be any true wisdom. It’s just not possible.


The New Testament Book of Wisdom

The Book of James has been called the New Testament book of wisdom by many because it contains wisdom for the church and is considered part of what is called “wisdom literature” and indeed it has much wisdom in it. James saw the value of wisdom and explains this when he wrote “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). When Solomon became King of Israel, he could have asked God for many things but what did he ask for? Solomon asked for wisdom (1 King 3:9) and God answered that prayer and “God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice.  I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 King 3:11-12). His wisdom grew so greatly that almost all that heard of him came to seek his wisdom and “came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (Luke 11:31). James understood that it is a good thing to pray for and ask God for wisdom. James asked the rhetorical question “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13) but there is a difference between earthly wisdom (James 3:15) and godly wisdom as he writes “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

Jesus’ Wisdom

Jesus was said to be “full of wisdom” (Mark 6:2) by those who heard Him and as a young child He grew in wisdom rapidly (Luke 2:40; 52). Jesus told the disciples that when persecution begins to grow “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21:15) indicating that He, as God, is the true source of all wisdom. When Jesus came to teach “to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works” (Matt 13:54)? It is ascribed to Jesus this praise “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev 7:12) and “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12)! Solomon’s wisdom could not compare to the wisdom of Jesus because being God Himself, no other greater wisdom can be found and truly “something greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31c).

The Benefits of Wisdom

When you’re a child, you don’t see the value in being disciplined but “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Prov 29:15) and “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad” (Prov 29:3a). How can we be wise in our own eyes before God? For one thing “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Prov 28:26) and it is “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established” (Prov 24:3). The value of wisdom is seen in Solomon’s statement “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Prov 23:23).


The biblical definition of wisdom is the fear of the Lord as that’s where it begins and God is the source. The earthly wisdom is really no wisdom at all because “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19). True wisdom is found in obedience to God, fearing Him and His Word, in the Word of God the Bible and by praying or asking for it. All other ground is sinking sand.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack WellmanJack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.

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  • Rust Cohle

    Proverbs got it wrong. Actually, fear is the beginning of a lower IQ.

    “When there is any fear or anxiety the amygdala region of the brain, your emotional center, jumps to attention and takes resources away from the executive decision making of the prefrontal cortex. In a chain reaction the light goes out on the prefrontal cortex, your IQ drains like a cold beer going down on a hot afternoon…”

    Where Did My IQ points Go?
    EQ Gain to Protect your IQ Drain
    Relly Nadler Psy.D..,M.C.C. on Apr 29, 2011 in Leading with Emotional Intelligence

    • Tina Yang

      you are highly mistaken with all your scientific jargon… fear of the Lord means highly respecting & obedience to the Lord…

    • Matthew 22:37

      Fear is reverence.

  • Glenn Jedlicka

    I would have to say all so called knowledge ,science ,institution ,philosophy , that does not come from God , but from todays so called educational system…..falls short of TRUE knowledge and Wisdom …..that can only come from God and His Word

  • I think “fear of the Lord” would actually prevent true wisdom because wisdom comes more from being grounded. If you are just feeling fear, you may not be well-enough grounded to know deeply, i.e. to experience wisdom. I guess this is more akin to Buddha than the Bible, in that Buddha struck the ground saying it was the basis for his knowing the truth, and I think that is so of all humans. For example, you know that if you jump off a cliff, you will be greatly injured, even killed. And if you stand on ground that is shaky, such as the edge of a cliff, you run the risk of the ground crumbling and you falling. I think what you are calling “wisdom” in terms of fear is just obedience to someone who has power over you, such as a conqueror who imposes their language and religion onto a people. Then of course if you don’t listen to the one who has power over you, you may be hurt, even killed.

    • Jack Wellman

      Fear of heights builds wisdom since we know that we could get hurt, so fear adds to wisdom, not prevents it.

  • When Satan took Jesus into the wilderness to tempt
    him, Jesus quoted an Old Testament scripture. He said, “Get thee
    hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,
    and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10) Jesus was quoting
    from Deuteronomy 6:13 where it says, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy
    God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.” Jesus translated
    the word “fear” as worship.

    The word for fear in the Old Testament translates as awe, respect, and love that
    produces worship.

    God doesn’t want you to be afraid of Him, He wants you to have an awe and respect of him that ends in worship. We are to worship Him.

    Fear makes an honest relationship impossible. Think
    about it. You can’t be honest with someone when you fear what they
    will do or how they will respond. That is not a real relationship.

    The ultimate goal of the gospel is to actually have
    a loving and deep relationship with God, but until fear is properly
    understood, that relationship is out of reach. The religious leaders
    of Jesus’ day misrepresented God for sure. They portrayed Him as hard
    and judgmental.

    Jesus came to properly represent God to the world.
    He said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Hebrews 1:3
    says that Jesus was the exact representation of God. He was
    approachable and open. He was relationship oriented and loving. He
    was everything opposite to what the Jewish leaders of the day
    presented God to be. And sometimes how the Christian leaders of the
    church today present God to be. Ouch, did I say that out loud?

    Jesus came preaching the GOOD NEWS, that God was
    a good God, not an angry God. The word “salvation” in Romans 1:16
    comes from the Greek word “sozo” which means healing,
    deliverance, protection, safety, and many other good things.

    Luke 4:19 says “to
    preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” What did he mean by that?
    The acceptable year of the Lord is in the Jewish calendar, the year
    of Jubilee. This year happens every 50 years and by custom all debts
    were canceled during this year. This scripture is saying that all
    debts are canceled. The penalty of debt is canceled. This is good
    news indeed! The debt of the law and the penalty of sin is canceled!
    This good news actually causes people to fall in love with God. It
    causes people to trust the God they dreaded. They come out of the
    stronghold of sin by entering into intimacy with God.

    To fear Him, is to know, love and worship Him. A
    relationship with God is the beginning of all wisdom. It is the power
    of God unto salvation, healing, deliverance and ever other promise
    that God made.

  • Debbie Melville-Walsh

    fear of the lord…like scales…one end dread….opposite end reverential awe and a working with mentality….”overcomers” revel…says we are down in that area of believing so we are on a life journey of being taught….love all the information u conveyed….thank you…want to build my house on rock not sand

  • Cris Dela Cruz

    Wisdom and intelligence defined by Bible on Job 28:28 . And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” And if you love reading ebook you can check “Wisdom & Intelligence” online on Itunes or Amazon to hopefully got more inspiration about the subject.

  • cris

    I discovered the best definition of wisdom will see in this verse Job 28:28 . And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”You can go more by reading Job 28 fully or try the ebook Wisdom & Intelligence online on Itunes or Amazon to hopefully got more inspiration about the subject.

    Wisdom and intelligence defined by Bible in Job 28:28 . And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” And if you love reading ebook you can check “Wisdom & Intelligence” online on Itunes or Amazon to hopefully got more inspiration about the subject.

    So true the intellegence can be use on good or evil things and wisdom is positive like what bible says on Job 28:28 And he said to the human race,
    “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
    and to shun evil is understanding.” And if you love reading ebook you can check “Wisdom & Intelligence” online on Itunes or Amazon to hopefully got more inspiration about the subject.

  • Simba

    There are many good insights here, but several of your starting premises seem less rooted in the biblical wisdom tradition and more rooted in American anti-intellectualism. The notion that ‘experience’ is the best way to acquire true wisdom because wisdom is “not something you can learn from a textbook,” is not really something Proverbs emphasizes at all. Part of me agrees with what you’re saying, (yes we learn much from experience), but Proverbs does not want us to learn only (or even primarily) by experience. The point of Proverbs is to learn wisdom without having to suffer so much as a result of terrible choices. You quote that one can even “Buy Truth” (Proverbs 23:23), but this verse means more than just wisdom is valuable. Often people have to pay money to learn critical insights from seasoned practitioners (like in classrooms, or from expensive textbooks). These insights can prove invaluable in helping us to thrive and succeed, they are worth what they cost insofar as they contain truth. My point is, true wisdom must be found in textbooks, lectures, and it is something that can be studied and learned. From business strategy to church management, those who choose to learn only from experience will suffer much; those who choose to go and find wisdom (in books and from study under wise people).