The Value of Wisdom
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Proverbs 3:22: “So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.”
Solomon continues to instruct his son concerning the value of wisdom. In verse thirteen of this chapter, Solomon writes that the man who finds wisdom and understanding will be happy.
In verse twenty-one, Solomon told his son to “keep sound wisdom and discretion.” Wisdom and discretion were to be regarded as being so valuable that they were to be locked in a safe place so the son would always have them in his possession. He should never give them away to anyone, nor should he grow careless in maintaining ownership of them. He must not have the attitude that he would be not missing anything of any value or importance to him should the wisdom and understanding his father had passed on to him turn up missing. As valuable crown jewels are safely kept to retain their possession, so must this son value wisdom and understanding.
“Sound wisdom and discretion” are the antecedents of “they” which is near the beginning of verse twenty-two. Solomon is not interested in giving to his son the wisdom of the business world. The goal is not to help his son heap up treasures of gold for himself. In other passages of Scripture, Solomon speaks of the vanity of earthly riches. He also is not interested in political power or his son’s ascension of the social ladder. He knows the vanity of these things too. Sound wisdom is the wisdom of God, knowing about our heavenly Father’s virtues and the goodness of obeying the Lord our Master. Sound wisdom is free from the errors of the mind of fallen man. Sound wisdom does not have within it a kernel of fallacy which corrupts. It is a firm wisdom because its foundation is God’s Word.
Discretion is the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. This is right and wrong as determined by the righteous God, not the changing standards of men. Christians of every era have faced a world filled with temptations. There is not a Christian who is not in need of being able to discern between good and evil. Adam faced choices of good and evil, and so do we. How many of us would be able to tell of the devastating effects of choosing evil, either of ourselves or those whom we have known?
Solomon is about to make a guarantee to his son about wisdom and discretion. That is the importance of the word “shall.” In our Authorized Version of the Bible there is an important difference between will and shall. “Will” is something which one would like to do. It is a desire. Not knowing what the future holds, and not being able to control all possible factors, we often speak of what we would will, or desire, to do. “Shall” is a certainty. We are certain the sun shall rise in the east and set in the west. There is nothing which will stop it. Solomon wants his son to know that there is something certain about sound wisdom and discretion. His son can count on it.
Wisdom and discretion are life unto the soul. We see again Solomon’s interest in his son’s spiritual life. Solomon is not speaking about the life of the flesh, nor is he passing along hints regarding health and nutrition. The soul is what stands us in relation to God as our Creator. God also gave souls to the animals when He formed them from the dust of the Earth. Solomon is not writing about the spirit which is our ethical standing before God. This is the fundamental aspect of living which animates and moves us. The foolishness of sin brings death and judgment. Wisdom and discretion give life and the experience of our Father’s favour.
Wisdom and discretion also are grace to the neck. This reference is not to the back of the neck. Scripture speaks of the back of the neck being hard and stiff. Such a picture is used to refer to people who oppose God and refuse to bend their will to His good law. It is the stubborn, obstinate way of wilful sin.
Here is a reference to the front of the neck. This is where the ornament of a beautiful necklace is hung. A necklace has value. The value might arise from the precious metals used to make the necklace, or the necklace might be adorned with precious, beautiful stones and gems. Even an inexpensive necklace can be greatly valued when it is a gift from a dear friend.
Solomon speaks of an ornament of grace, God’s favour. Necklaces are worn for beauty, decoration or display, but they are always easy to see. People will see that Solomon’s son experiences the favour and loving-kindness of God. The condemned criminal and the shamed captive wore a ring around the neck by which they were led against their will. It was a symbol of their shame, but wisdom and discretion result in an ornament which gives glory. The son would be joyful of such a symbol of God’s love and favour.
As teachers, we desire our students to have God’s wisdom and discretion in their hearts. Yes, they need to have an education so they can make their way in a changing economic world, but discretion will show them how to use their talents and abilities in the service of God, no matter what work He has for them. No matter where our students go, we hope God’s grace in Jesus Christ will be clearly evident in their lives.