Wisdom, the Principal Thing
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI
Proverbs 4:7-8: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”
In this section of Proverbs 4, Solomon continues to tell us the instruction his father David had given to him. Solomon took this instruction to heart and faithfully passes it on to us.
Solomon gives us an important truth: wisdom is the principal thing. Wisdom is the ability to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. This is not good and evil in the sight of man. We know how that can change. Some of us have been around for awhile and have seen how social mores have devolved. What used to be generally deplored and thought shameful, even by the world, is now openly paraded and thought to be something of which one may and should be proud. This is good and evil as defined by God in His Word. This is the standard which does not change. Wisdom gives us the ability to see how God’s Word applies to every area of life.
The wisdom which comes from God is the principal thing. Wisdom is the beginning of, and the most important thing in, life. It comes first in the order of things which David told Solomon he must acquire. David knew Solomon would rule after him. Yet, David did not say that it would be most important for Solomon to keep a close eye on his enemies. He did not point out the importance of knowing how to wield power so nobody would dare threaten his position on Israel’s throne. David, because he had contemplated God’s law during his years of service as a shepherd, and now because he had ruled God’s people for a number of years, came to realize that wisdom was what was most important in life.
The next command from David would seem to be obvious. If wisdom is that important so as to be the chief thing in life, Solomon had better get it. This implies effort on Solomon’s part. When one gets something, obtains it for his or her own possession; it was not a gift. You went out into society and used your skills or knowledge to work for what you wanted. Wisdom does not come through a passive life of sitting back and being entertained or being constantly connected to the internet or social media. In our digital and electronic age, the world is putting up a constant babble leaving us little room for quietly contemplating spiritual matters. Getting wisdom takes the work of closing out the world and its distractions for a time, and putting the effort into personal meditation on God’s Word. That is how we get wisdom.
David did not want Solomon to stop with getting wisdom. He had to progress to the next step, getting understanding. Just a few verses previous, wisdom and understanding were referred to with a singular pronoun as though they were one and the same. This time, however, wisdom and understanding are not the same idea. Understanding included the idea of using one’s experiences in life. Understanding is the application of wisdom and life’s experiences so one practices discernment in the wide variety of situations in which we can find ourselves in life.
Solomon followed David’s advice. We are very familiar with the story recorded in I Kings 3. God appeared to Solomon to ask him what he desired. He asked for wisdom. What percentage of people would give the same answer if presented with such an opportunity?
We also have the example of Mary in Luke 10. Martha received Jesus into her house and became very busy in meeting the needs of her guests. Mary did not lift a finger to help, much to the annoyance of Martha. After asking Christ to ask Mary to give some help, the Lord pointed out that Mary chose what was better, listening to His instruction. Mary viewed Christ’s instruction as the principal thing.
David also commanded Solomon to exalt wisdom. We are to set wisdom up to a higher elevation. We look up to wisdom because of its value. We see wisdom’s superior character.
There are results for viewing wisdom as the principal thing, getting wisdom and understanding, and exalting her. We are promoted. We will be advanced, put above to a higher spiritual level. Wisdom also brings honour when she is embraced. We will hold wisdom tight so we will not let her go. We have affection for wisdom for we see how valuable she is to our life. Wisdom gives substance to our lives so we do not walk in the vanities of this world. Wisdom gives us a beautiful decoration of grace and a crown of glory.
Is this our nature, to believe that wisdom is the principal thing? No. We would foolishly join the world in their vanity, seeking pleasure in things the world has to offer, and, in the end, finding that the world’s goods have no lasting value. By God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we have new hearts so that we will see God’s wisdom as the principal thing.