What is wisdom? And how do we get it? Biblical wisdom is not simply knowledge or the accumulation of facts (2 Timothy 3:7; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Colossians 2:8). Nor is it simply a matter of God putting knowledge into your head. (God can do that, but that is not what wisdom is.) In the classic illustration of wisdom, Solomon was confronted with two women claiming the same child (1 Kings 3:16-28). God did not simply drop into Solomon’s mind which was the right woman. Rather, Solomon used his knowledge of human nature to determine which was the mother. Wisdom, therefore, does not primarily consist in the obtaining of new knowledge but in the ability to use the knowledge we have. Therefore, when we pray for wisdom (James 1:5), we are not asking God to zap us with truth, but for God to give us the ability to properly use the knowledge we have.
Where, then, do we get wisdom? The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 1:22,23; Colossians 2:2,3). It also is found in God’s Word (Psalms 19:7; 119:97-100, 1:1,2). But there can be a problem here. It is possible to simply acquire information on spiritual things without obtaining real wisdom. Now I do not believe you can know God without knowing about Him (Jeremiah 9:23,24; 1 John 4:1-6; Isaiah 43:10). But knowing God and having the wisdom that comes from that involves more than just knowing information (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 John 4:7,8; John 13:17). So how do we go from merely possessing information to real wisdom?
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This means that we need to understand God’s greatness and His holiness. Now it does say in Scripture that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). But the problem is, we want to shortcut the process. We need to walk in the steps of Isaiah who saw a vision of the glory of God and realized he was a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:1-8). Then God forgave Isaiah’s sin and called Isaiah to be His prophet. We need to start by recognizing that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and that God is holy (Romans 1:18; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:17). But Christ paid the price (1 Peter 1:18,19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13,14) so that those who put their faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9) can come with confidence into the presence of God (Romans 8:31-39; 1 John 4:17; Hebrews 4:16). However, if we try to bypass this and approach God without a realization of His holiness and our unworthiness, we can fail to develop a real understanding of who God is. For paradoxically, the way to wisdom is humility (Matthew 18:1-6; Luke 18:9-17; Proverbs 16:18). For it is only as we realize how little we really know (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3; Proverbs 26:12), that we become open to learning what God wants to teach us.