What’s on your list of priorities for today? It’s a wise practice to inventory your life every so often to make sure that priorities haven’t gotten disordered: to look at money spent, time invested, and activities undertaken to assess where your true priorities lie. We all know that it’s far too easy for items that should be second-tier to sneak their way to the top shelf over time. When this happens, we need to take stock and reconfigure to ensure that our everyday lives reflect what we say is most important.
Not surprisingly, the Bible has something to say about priorities. For instance, we know that we’re to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39). We know we’re to make the most of our time because we live in evil days (Eph. 5:16), and to lay aside any weight or sin that drags us down in our race of faith (Heb. 12:1–2). However, I want to consider another verse that sets a clear path for a top spot on our list of priorities:
Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom.
And whatever else you get, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
That makes it pretty clear. “Wisdom,” the sage says, “is supreme.” What should be our response? Go get it! But before we take off, let’s pause and consider that not all wisdom is created equal. Not everything called “wisdom” is worth running toward at full tilt. Our enemy, the master counterfeiter himself, has bottled his own brand of wisdom and sells it on every street corner, through every streaming service, social media platform, news outlet, and video game. The apostle James gives us a look at it:
But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3:14–15)
The hallmarks of the world’s pseudo-wisdom are envy and selfish ambition. A me-first, self-centered, independent, covetous lifestyle headlines the show for Satan’s brand of wisdom. Of course, you wouldn’t pursue this type of wisdom. Obviously. Me either.
Or would we?
Just a few verses later, James gives us a telltale sign that we’re prioritizing worldly wisdom: conflict.
What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:1–2)
James is saying that conflicts happen when we selfishly pursue our own passions. When this happens, my ambition and desires get into the driver’s seat and take off. If you find yourself in regular conflict with other people, perhaps you’re chasing down the wrong kind of wisdom.
Wisdom from Above
Thankfully, James also tells us about the genuine article—wisdom from above. In a definition of wisdom, you might expect to find something about “applying knowledge” or “making good decisions.” Surprisingly, those things are absent. James defines heavenly wisdom with a list of attributes:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. (James 3:17)
Unlike the phony wisdom-substitute offered by the world, true wisdom forgets about self entirely. Almost all of the characteristics James lists deal with putting other people first and myself in the back seat, while giving selfish ambition and bitter envy the boot.
So here we find our first practical means of chasing after wisdom: forget about yourself. Surrender your desires to make way for someone else’s—and do it without expecting anything in return. Show gentleness by responding to harsh words or unkindness with a soft answer. Don’t fear other people and prioritize their approval. Be “unwavering” in your commitment to truth, all the while bearing the fruit of mercy and compassion.
No Shortcut to Wisdom
Does that list seem as daunting to you as it does to me? I can only speak for myself, but by that definition, attaining wisdom seems a very long way off! Only one Person ever embodied wisdom perfectly: our Savior—wisdom in flesh and blood. You and I, on the other hand, are natural born fools. Wise in our own eyes, we refuse to fear God and choose instead to walk in the path of our own selfish ambition. For this reason, the wisdom literature of Scripture tells us that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7, 9:10; Psalm 111:10). Only when we take our gaze off ourselves and look at the God Only Wise will we recognize that wisdom will never be found within our own hearts. The blinding splendor and radiance of God’s holiness rattles us to our very core, humbling and curing us of our presumption of self-wisdom.
Do you really believe wisdom is supreme? Do you want to get it no matter what?
Fear the Lord.
There really is no shortcut. Without a lofty view of a transcendent God, your wisdom will always be a truncated, if not totally falsified, version of the authentic original.
Now that we’ve come to realize that we have some recalibration to do, how do we proceed in our pursuit of wisdom? Here are just a few ideas:
Throughout Proverbs, the fool is characterized as a person who refuses to listen to wise counsel, while the wise person absorbs the guidance of his counselors. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he follows every piece of advice that he’s given, only that he carefully considers it when making a decision. Are you a person who seeks out wise counsel? Or does the guidance of Google suffice? Do you listen when people tell you things? Or do you do your own thing?
- Surround yourself with good counselors.
Perhaps it goes without saying that if you’re going to be a good listener, you’d better be listening to the right people. These days, influencers are just waiting for us to tap into their feed. From social media giants and internet sensations to political figures and podcast pundits, we have myriad counselors just waiting to bend our ears. In order to prioritize wisdom, we must make sure that we’re surrounded by the right kind of counselors—those who will take our focus off of self and place it on the Holy Creator.
- Make Scripture your counselor.
I hope you listen to wise counselors and that you carefully, intentionally put them in your life, turning to them in seasons of doubt, difficulty, or decision. However, they’re not enough. The human author of Psalm 119 proclaims that God’s testimonies are his counselors (v. 24). When listening to a word from even a trusted adviser, compare it to the Word to test its validity. Or turn to a wise friend with questions regarding your interpretation of Scripture, and have her help you discern whether it holds water. Either way, let Scripture be your counselor. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Delight in it. You will find true wisdom.
- Ask the Wonderful Counselor.
Listen to counsel. Listen to the right counselors. Listen to Scripture. And finally, listen to the Wonderful Counselor Himself. If you have trusted the glorious gospel, you have the Counselor promised by Christ living inside you—the One who will lead you into truth (John 16:13). But He will only do so if you listen to Him. Converse with Him. Ask for direction and wisdom—a prayer God has promised to faithfully and generously answer (James 1:5).
If, like me, you feel that we live in a world gone mad, a world bereft of divine wisdom, we must make acquiring wisdom our priority. A priority we pursue at all costs.
Do you know a woman who wants to believe that Heaven rules but just can’t convince herself to live like it’s true? Maybe she’s anxious, depressed, filled with a sense of panic over what the future holds. Maybe that woman is you. Explore, in depth, the rich truth that “Heaven rules” in Nancy’s book by the same name. When you donate to the ministry today, we’d love to send you a copy of Heaven Rules plus a bonus discussion guide, available only through Revive Our Hearts, as our thanks. You can even choose English or Spanish when you request your copies!
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about It’s Time for Inventory: Taking Stock of Wisdom.