This person is at every church you’ve ever attended, and they’ll be at every church you attend in the future. If you hope to live in healthy church life, you’re going to have to deal with them.
They have good intentions, but they’re an imperfect human you’re dealing with. You have to come to grips with that and allow the truth of that to adjust how you treat them. If you don’t, you’re bound to create more trouble for yourself than is necessary.
Wisdom might not be what you think
Most Christians know the book of Proverbs was written to pass on wisdom for almost any situation. They are accumulated wisdom for how life tends to go. The Hebrew word for wisdom in the book is chokhmah (good luck pronouncing it). But this word doesn’t mean what you might think it means.
The meaning of the English word wisdom tends to be more related to head knowledge and gets applied to someone that knows a lot of stuff. But in Hebrew, it has an active meaning. It goes beyond knowing a lot to having an ability to apply knowledge correctly in different situations to make good decisions.
In the BibleProject podcast episode where the book of Proverbs is discussed in-depth, the hosts point out,,,
In Proverbs 8, it says the Lord acquired wisdom as the first of all that He did and that He formed wisdom and then used wisdom to architect the watery depths and the mountains and the hills and how He marked out the heavens. It’s a bunch of architectural imagery. Wisdom is the blueprint of the architecture.
Basically, wisdom is the source of the order and cause-and-effect patterns we find in the universe.
And if you don’t follow chokhmah in certain areas of your life, it’s like swimming upstream. Life will simply be harder for you in general because you’re not applying knowledge correctly and the consequences of that are built in to how the world works.
Wisdom isn’t an energy or force
Now you could be thinking…
“This sounds a lot like some weird non-Christian stuff like The Secret or The Force (in Star Wars) where you send good vibes or bad vibes out into the universe and the universe rewards or penalizes you.”
But, there’s a couple of major differences here. First, chokhmah is not a force or energy that you tap into and use to get what you want. It’s not something that you grab hold of and then decide if you want to use it for good or evil like The Force in Star Wars. There’s no dark side to wisdom. You either act wise or act like a fool and get the consequences of each.
Second, as the Bible Project episode points out…
This is not some intellectual exercise with an impersonal force. It’s an attribute of God, but is also something that’s accessible to humans. When humans tap into it, you’re laying hold of something outside of yourself that is an attribute of God Himself and is a principle that’s woven in to how the world works.
So, you work with or against wisdom. You don’t control it.
Wisdom isn’t good intentions
The book also gives each of us a warning though. It talks about how humans can become “wise in their own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:7) Basically, this means that we can be deceived into thinking we’re being wise in any given situation.
This happens frequently because humans tend to make emotional decisions and then seek out logical explanations for getting what they want. We very easily fool ourselves and don’t even realize we’re doing it. There’s even a proverb about this (go figure!)…
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)
You may have good intentions of being wise. Most people do. But, that doesn’t mean you actually will be. That’s why there are so many famous quotes about people that have good intentions, like “God save us from people who mean well.” and “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”
Well dag nabbit, if we’re prone to thinking we’re being wise but really acting foolishly, what are we to do? How do we protect ourselves from falling into this trap?
Humbling yourself before the Lord
The beginning of Proverbs (1:7) says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” So when you’re seeking it out, you’re not trying to lay hold of some impersonal force, but you’re humbling yourself before a Person and falling in line with the wisdom with which He designed and runs the world.
And how do you humble yourself before that Person in areas where you may still need to acquire wisdom?
You go to other people…through various sources like Scripture, books and other people in your life. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s even proverbs about doing that! Here’s a couple…
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6)
We’ve all watched people make life decisions on their own while we knew they were being foolish simply because we had a better vantage point and had acquired more wisdom related to the particular area they were dealing with.
All they had to do was ask, listen and consider and they may have walked away with better applied knowledge for their situation. Instead, they thought they were wise when they were really being a fool.
When we do this sort of thing, we violate the fear of the Lord. It’s not that we’re intentionally being unwise. It’s that we’re not fearing the Lord because we’re not doing due diligence to make sure we’re not being wise in our own eyes.
So…who should you be very suspicious of in your church? You may have already guessed it…YOURSELF.
Applying knowledge is a developed skill
Also, when it comes to wisdom, sure some people develop more of it over time as they go through life experiences and seek it out. There are some people that become wiser over time than others and are generally able to make better, healthier, more prosperous decisions than others in a variety of situations.
But even then, what makes those people wiser is their ever-growing reliance on guarding against being “wise in their own eyes” by always being suspicious of themselves. This reminds me of when you hear people say “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
And while it’s true that some people are wiser than others in general, some people carry more applied wisdom in certain areas than others. One person may have more applied wisdom with finances while another may have more applied wisdom in building relationships. It’s on this basis that a consistently wise church should be making decisions together.
Although you may have some people that are wiser overall in your church than others; for each and every situation that a church goes through, you never know where the wisdom for that particular situation might come from.
Jesus went through the process
The tricky part with wisdom is this…it’s not made up of formulas that can just be applied to any situation; so it can be applied incorrectly.
In a way, it takes gaining applied wisdom to know how to apply wisdom in each situation.
While Jesus never sinned, even He still went through this process as a human as the gospel of Luke (2:46-52) points out…
…they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions…and Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Always be suspicious of yourself
The podcast episode wraps up by saying this…
The whole thing is this – you’re going to have a way that seems right to you, there will be decisions that make sense to you, but you should always be suspicious of your motives and always check yourself against God’s perspective (which isn’t always your perspective).
There’s a skill to be developed in being suspicious of ourselves and turning to the wisdom of others to know what the right way forward is.
And as YOU grow in wisdom and stature and have accumulated more applied knowledge in a variety of situations, you start to be able to apply it in more. As time goes on, you better understand how to swim downstream. But even as that happens, you hold even more tightly to the wisdom of turning to the wisdom of others to know the right ways forward.