The idea of wisdom in the Book of Proverbs is like the concept of freedom to an American—basic to our existence but difficult to define precisely. Normally we tend to pile up words to capture what we mean. Freedom is an “absence of hindrance” or, positively said, “boldness and vigor in action or belief” or “choosing what we want.”
Similarly, the Book of Proverbs tends to pile up words to give us insight into wisdom, as if it is holding a jewel up to the light from different angles to capture all its facets. For Proverbs, wisdom overlaps with “knowledge” and “understanding” and “competence.” In a vivid metaphor, wisdom is said to “live with prudence, knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 8:12). So precious is wisdom.
But when we get to its definition, we can say it consists of two important things, which I will explore more fully in future columns. For Proverbs wisdom consists of understanding something and acting in a certain way. The thing you understand is a paradox: that deeds have consequences, and deep ones at that, but that God is supreme even over this “rule” of life, and can and will work things out according to His divine will.
The second thing to understand is that wisdom is basically a mastery over life and our experience of life. Proverbs believes that if you diligently seek and gain wisdom, then your ability to “master” or “figure out” life and its complexity is at your fingertips. And that we could use in both our families and our family businesses…