Wisdom Literature

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov. 9:10).

- Proverbs 9:10

In his epistle, James concerns himself with the importance of seeking God for wisdom (1:5). Indeed, many have seen fit to call the letter of James the “Proverbs of the New Testament” because many of its aphorisms are similar to the statements found in the book of Proverbs and the other wisdom books of the Old Testament. Because wisdom is such an overriding concern for James, we will spend the next week looking at this important topic with the help of the teaching series Wisdom by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

The history of philosophy bears witness to the fact that mankind has been universally concerned with the pursuit of wisdom. The term “philosophy” actually comes from two Greek words that taken together mean “the love of wisdom.” When the Greeks and later Western philosophers pursued the study of philosophy they did so in order to find precepts for thinking, believing, and acting rightly.

In Greek philosophy, the belief in one god came late and was indeed the culmination of the Greeks’ philosophical quest — even though this god did not have much in common with the God of Scripture. However, this is not the case for biblical philosophy. The Bible uniformly looks to God as the starting point for wisdom. Today’s passage exemplifies this in testifying that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).

The fear spoken of here is not a fear that one would have of an enemy but the filial trust that a son has for his father. It is a fear equal to reverence, awe, respect, and love. Thus, for believers, wisdom seeks to apply the Word of God so that they live a life pleasing to God. This concern for practical obedience demonstrates respect for His lordship and gratitude for His salvation.

This wisdom is distinct from knowledge in some respects. It is possible to know a lot of facts yet lack wisdom. However, at the same time, the reverse is not true. It is not possible to have wisdom and lack knowledge. As today’s passage also shows, knowledge of God is always coupled with wisdom (v. 10). Wisdom does not equal knowledge, but if we know nothing we will not be wise.

Coram Deo

To what end do you pursue knowledge? Is your desire just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, or do you seek wisdom in order to live a life coram Deo, before the face of God, pleasing to Him? Consider the ends toward which you study, whether Scripture or other pursuits. Ask God that He would grant you a heart that pursues His wisdom and that He would help you to develop relationships with others who can help you learn to be wise.

Passages for Further Study

Prov. 2:6–8
Eccl. 7:11–12
Matt. 11:19b
1 Cor. 1:22–25

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