Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
- Proverbs 3:13-15
A movement developed in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century to return to classical literature. Discussion groups were formed (what we now call “book clubs”) to explore the ideas of the most important thinkers throughout history.
Mortimer Adler was an educator who developed an entire program based on these books and even edited a series called the Great Books of the Western World. Adler’s intent was to help people gain wisdom by reading the great thinkers in fields like mathematics, philosophy, history, theology, literature and science. He believed that if you were exposed to the people who conceived of new ideas, you would grow in wisdom.
Wisdom was important to many in that generation. In our generation, wisdom and intellectual pursuits have been left to the academics. There is just no time to read a great book, let alone talk about one for two hours. There are better things to do with my time!
Adler once observed that people aren’t ready for ‘Adult Education’ (i.e., reading great literature and discovering) until they are in their early 30’s. By this time, they had kids, lost their parents, and had work responsibilities that weren’t always fulfilling. They would search for a ‘deeper meaning’ to life.
A proverb is ‘a short well-known saying containing a wise thought’ (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proverb). Think of these; ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, ‘A book is like a garden carried in the pocket’, ‘A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark’.
The Old Testament book of Proverbs expresses some of these ‘bit-sized’ sayings to meditate on. As Christians, we can learn a lot from Proverbs. Heck, even the anti-religious individual will find benefit from reading this book.
We can grow in wisdom and still find we are lacking. But the Proverbs, as well as the entire Old Testament points to a future reality. Wisdom is personified in the Proverbs as a woman. This is significant because women have been seen throughout the centuries as the personification of beauty. It links to deep desire. The author is making the point that wisdom should be desired in the same way. There is great beauty in wisdom.
As we look to the New Testament, wisdom becomes personified again. In Colossians 2 starting at the end of verse two, we read, ‘… Christ Himself, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ 1 Corinthians 1:24b states, ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. Jesus is the incarnation of wisdom. The key is, He doesn’t look like wisdom: ‘we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 23b).
A crucified God seems like no God at all. Calling a defeat a victory seems like foolishness. But without a crucified God, there is no forgiveness for any sins. All sin remains, and we are left hopeless. Everything we do, every suffering we endure, every life we touch is rendered meaningless.
This is not where God leaves us, though. He sent Jesus to become sin for us, that we might have the righteousness of God. God has done it. He has made our lives meaningful through the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are a woman, you are God’s true daughter in Jesus Christ. If you are a man, you are God’s true son in Jesus Christ. Together, we are united by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross who called us out of the darkness and into the light of this good news.
Now that’s wisdom!