Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:7 (ESV)
We all need wisdom. Where do we find it? As we listen to the Father’s instruction to a son, we discover that we have a choice of our source. We can either be wise in our own eyes or we can trust completely in the Lord.
None of us wants to admit to being wise in our own eyes, but it is more common than we will acknowledge. Self-conscious wisdom is the mark of a fool, and we refuse to admit that we are fools. It comes from believing myths concocted by the estranged souls of mankind seeking to find some dependable order in the universe. The first myth is that wisdom is intelligence. If we eliminate a personal God and his partnership in life, we are left with nothing but ourselves. So we try to gain as much information through intelligence as possible, and, in the end, we bow before the symbols of intelligence. We pay much more attention to a man or woman with a list of academic degrees by their name than to a humble working man or woman who acknowledges the obvious order of creation and its reflection of a creator who is all wise and willing to be known.
The second myth is the belief that wisdom is the result of accumulated and categorized information. We seek to be wise by our own efforts to be better people measured by how successful we are at working the system for profit and fame. What is “better?” Pastor Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale says: “Getting better is better than not getting better. But there are better ways to get better other than obsessing over getting better.” The issue is not trying to be known as wise. The issue is relating to God so that his wisdom is channeled through us in ways that exalt him and his kingdom, though often it leaves us with a sense of still not knowing much.
Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)
In my early years of ministry, I was desperate for God’s help. I was asked to speak at two-week crusades when I only had four messages prepared. I would spend quite a bit of time in prayer because I obviously was not adequate without God’s enablement. One day a pastor’s wife remarked that I was a “man of prayer.” Her intended compliment became a subtle trap for me. I began to try to live up to the standard of a “man of prayer” and missed the point of praying. We can make the same mistake with wisdom. The person who thinks he or she is wise has missed the point. We have access to intimacy with Jesus Christ who is wisdom. That is enough.
The Father’s counsel is that we fear the Lord and turn from evil. The order is important. We have been deluded into thinking we could turn from evil without first fearing the Lord. We won’t turn from the idolatrous lifestyle until we see a God who is greater than the ones we now serve. Fearing the Lord is in essence trusting him totally. When I discover that he has won the victory for me, I have greater courage to fight than if I think the battle is still undecided. I have greater confidence to approach him if I believe my sins are already forgiven than if I am not sure.
The promise in this counsel is that health and refreshing are the results of aligning our lives with the order of God. When we align our thinking, feeling, choosing and acting with the kingdom order mandated by the king, we have eliminated those life-destroying powers of hate, bitterness, stress, anxiety, fear and greed. Though we are still in these aging and decaying bodies, our health is good. In ease or in pain, the king is on the throne and we have intimacy with him. We can live and age with the dignity and hope of sons whose Champion has defeated death and given us the privilege of living in his presence forever.