What Wisdom Looks Like


I read through the book of Proverbs this weekend. As I was trying to discern the right way through a difficult question I was asked I wanted to make sure my answer wasn't couched in cleverness or pragmatic, "well it sounds good so let's do it," philosophy. I wanted my answer to be anchored in real, Biblical reality. The question I was seeking to answer by looking through Proverbs is an altogether different story. However I did find something that I believe a lot of churches today would have a difficult time swallowing. Wisdom doesn't really appear like today's "manly man."

Today's "manly men" are seemingly the guys that shoot first and take prisoners later. The conquer everything. Passivity has no room in the life of a man. He needs to mount up, shoot the wolves, vanquish the foes, and save the princess. Some of the descriptions I get of the "manly men" today sound a lot like a Gideon or Sampson to me. Honestly those aren't the most exemplary characters in the Bible at all. Don't agree with me? Read Judges again, you probably remember the flannel-board versions.

Yet the kind of person I find in Proverbs that is truly wise is first described as a woman. Lady Wisdom "calls in the streets.... (Proverbs 1:20)" Now, I understand the literary device the writer of Proverbs is trying to use here to coach his son to pursue wisdom. "Boy, think of wisdom as a beautiful, attractive, glorious woman. Pursue wisdom the way you'd pursue her." But then the book gets to describing wisdom. Wisdom doesn't sound like the manly man.

  • Wisdom is quiet. It doesn't talk too much, and never runs it mouth.
  • Wisdom waits, it's patient and sees all the sides before making a decision.
  • Wisdom isn't flashy. It quietly goes about its hard work.
  • Wisdom is kind. It covers a multitude of sins.
  • Wisdom isn't presumptuous. It lets the person finish before they respond.
  • Wisdom doesn't demand the right to be heard. In fact it rarely even asks to be heard. But those who value wisdom constantly ask for him to speak.
  • Wisdom is meager. Not building a big platform or making a lot of noise about itself.
  • Wisdom is somber. It's not to coarse joker.
  • Wisdom is grown up. It's not the juvenile, "wrestle-them-to-the-ground", berating, know-it-all that tells you how much it knows.

All-in-all wisdom seems like the slow to speak, respected, patient man that we should aspire to be. Not the goof-ball, overconfident, blabbering self-promoters that our culture clings to so much. If anything we should be quiet, grow up, listen up and get to work. Wisdom doesn't look like the young hip guy with a hipster vibe about him. It looks like the older man who quietly goes about his work. In fact if you hang out with the older guy you'll catch the sweet droppings of his wisdom all over the place. He can't help but scatter them everywhere. I hope to be the older wise man and not the young, hipster-fool.