In the days before school began one August, I carefully placed piece after piece of paper on the large bulletin board in my classroom. It was one of three boards that would welcome my students back to school. I am not a very artistic or crafty person, so finding and implementing creative ideas for bulletin boards and my classroom door was always a challenge for me. Since I worked at a Christian school, we dedicated one of our boards to a biblical concept. I wanted my board to be more than just a Bible verse slapped on to meet the biblical criteria, though. I wanted it to be relatable to my students in some way.
The store-bought, treasure-chest-themed bulletin board packet fit nicely with the Bible verse I chose:
“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (Proverbs 8:11 KJV).
Glittering paper rubies, emeralds, and other precious jewels spilled out of the treasure chest to draw the students’ attention to the verse on the board. Most of my students were familiar with the verse. Part of our Bible curriculum was verse memorization, and these kids had memorized some great (and long) verses. While we teachers were very proud of our students’ accomplishments in memorization, we were more concerned about the meanings of the verses penetrating their hearts.
So what is true wisdom? Is it the same for adults as it is for a group of fourth graders? My students and I discussed this a good bit that year. Wisdom is generally associated with an older person who has lived and learned. Does that mean young people are never wise? Do you have to wait until your hair is dusted with silver to be considered wise? We concluded not. Being young does not always equal being foolish, and being old does not guarantee wisdom.
The first definition of wisdom listed in the dictionary is “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.” The second definition is “scholarly knowledge or learning.” Like the dictionary order, scholarly knowledge is secondary to knowledge of what is true or right.
The Bible says plenty about wisdom. Wisdom is deemed one of the most important assets a person can possess. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon famously asks for wisdom above all other things, and Solomon was renowned for the wisdom he possessed as king. Proverbs 1:7 tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
James 1:5 says if you lack wisdom, ask the Lord for it. Be a lifelong learner. A person’s education and thirst for knowledge should not end just because their formal schooling has ended. Study what interests you. Read all sorts of books. Delve into biblical subjects. Study the Bible. Pray for wisdom in your words, thoughts, and actions.
Wisdom, discernment, and insight are some of my favorite words. They show deliberate thought, not a rush to judgment or rash actions. We seem so prone to knee-jerk reactions. In our instantaneous society, we feel we should also respond and react instantaneously as well. Rarely is this the wise choice. The Bible describes a wise person as one who doesn’t rush to judgment, one who listens to instruction, one who has patience, and one who is open and ready to follow God’s will.
So no, the number of candles on your birthday cake does not determine how wise you are. Yes, age brings a certain amount of knowledge that comes from experience, but wisdom is not knowledge alone. Wisdom is how we use our knowledge. A wise person does not have all the answers; however, they thoughtfully consider what was before and know when they need help.
Proverbs 3:21–22 instructs, “Maintain sound wisdom and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them. They will be life for you and adornment for your neck” (CSB).
Dana Herndon is a writer and blogger as well as an elementary and middle school teacher. She and her husband live in Georgia with their three children. In addition to teaching and writing, Dana loves to read, watch Food Network and HGTV, follow politics, and paddleboard. She blogs at danaherndon.com.
Photograph © Mark Kamalov, used with permission