There are certain aspects of King Solomon’s wisdom that only God can give, but there is a heart attitude toward wisdom—wisdom’s foundation—that we all can have.
Solomon instructs us on how to seek his kind of wisdom by personifying wisdom and foolishness as two women, both attractive, both sitting at the city gates and calling out to passersby to enter their homes: Wisdom “calls out from the highest points of the city: ‘Whoever is inexperienced, enter here! …. Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave inexperience behind, and you will live; pursue the way of understanding’” (Proverbs 9:3-6 CSB).
In the next few verses, we learn three truths that help us seek Solomonic wisdom.
1. The wise person receives correction.
Solomon goes on to describe this “way of understanding”: “Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you. Instruct the wise, and he will be wiser still; teach the righteous, and he will learn more” (Proverbs 9:8-9).
How do you respond to correction? When people rebuke you, do you thank them for it, or do you resent them? How much correction can you hear before finding fault with them or impugning their motives or just shutting them off?
I always best articulate my wife Veronica’s faults right after she has pointed out one of mine. Suddenly, a spirit of eloquence comes over me, and my memory turns razor sharp: “Do you remember six years ago? It was a Thursday night, we’d just had spaghetti for dinner, and you said …”
The humble person is quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. He recognizes there is usually more that he doesn’t know than he does know.
2. The wise person fears God.
In Proverbs 9:10, Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
“Fear of the Lord” doesn’t mean you sit around terrified of God. It means you recognize the power and value of something in your life.
Think of it like you “fear” the sun. Most of us don’t get up in the morning and think, “What is the sun going to do to me today?” But we recognize its power. We know it is necessary for life and that—get this—being in wrong relationship to it can end in death.
To fear God is to know how valuable he is in your life, how much you depend on him, and how foolish it would be to put yourself out of alignment with him. Show me a person who is attentive to his relationship with God and has a robust prayer life, and I’ll show you a person who has learned to fear God.
3. The wise person values fellowship with God above all else.
One of the most striking features in the description of Wisdom and Folly is how similar the “women” are. Both are at the same location—at the highest point of the city, calling out to people as they pass by. Both have prepared their houses for guests, and both appeal especially to the young.
But whereas Wisdom calls out to those who are humble and fear God, Folly appeals to those who want immediate satisfaction. Wisdom says, “‘Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!’ To the one who lacks sense, she says, ‘Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed’” (Proverbs 9:4-5).
Folly says, “‘Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!’ To the one who lacks sense, she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten secretly is tasty!’” (vv. 16-17)—or, in other words, “Who cares where this came from? It tastes good now.”
To be foolish doesn’t usually mean you hate God. You just really want some “bread”—the bread of success or romance or sex or family or pleasure—and if you have to temporarily leave God behind to get it, then so be it.
Maybe you are considering that choice right now as you decide to have sex before you’re married. Or maybe you are determined to get up that corporate ladder, even if you have to harm your family or bend your integrity. Maybe it’s in regards to building up your wealth, even if you disobey God’s commands to tithe and give generously in order to do it. Maybe you are resolved to get vengeance, because that feels better than letting God handle it.
Listen to the voice of Folly, and you might just get what she promises. But wisdom says it’s better to do things God’s way anyway. After all, stolen bread may taste sweet, but it turns to gravel in your belly (Proverbs 20:17). In contrast, “by [wisdom] your days will be many, and years will be added to your life” (Proverbs 9:11).
The gratification that comes from pleasing God lasts longer and is more satisfying than what stolen bread can provide. Every day, in every word, action, and thought, you’re seeking one of these forms of gratification. Which are you seeking today?