The report is that Solomon asked for wisdom, and God granted him that plus wealth, too.
I don’t know whether we think much about wisdom. We think in terms of education, and the type of degree we obtained (if we went to school), and, these days, whether we actually found employment in the same field as the degree. We think in terms of specialized training, such as to build houses, lay plumbing, or install electrical systems.
We think in terms of practical experience, which, in most cases, relates to the opportunities we had to apply our education and training to real-life situations.
But if I obtained a degree in business, or electrical training, and spend many years running a business or powering up houses (possibly both), does that make me wise?
The Bible would say No.
Wisdom, according to Scripture, is doing the right thing as life comes along, even without the education or training or knowledge that would make such decisions easier or more comfortable. James says that living life apart from this wisdom is actually demonic (James 3:15).
Why wisdom? Disciples of Jesus should be interested in following God’s instructions for how to please him and how to live with one another. The Bible provides many clear instructions, such as Do not murder (Exodus 20:13), and do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19). But when it comes to deriving and applying the implications of do not murder and do this in remembrance, the Bible relies not on clear, black-and-white instruction, but on God-directed and Spirit-led wisdom.
For example, we know from Scripture that it would be against God to choose as an occupation the life of professional assassin. What we don’t know is the best way to choose a trade or major in college. That is where wisdom comes in. We know we should commit to the local church, but we don’t have clear instructions for how much the local church should factor in to our kids’ sports activities. That’s where wisdom comes in.
Think of Solomon, presented with two women, both of whom claimed to be the mother of one child. Solomon announced that he would split the baby, knowing the the real mother would prefer the child be with another, rather than bifurcated, an consequently dead.
What degree grants such ability? What special training confers such skill?
According to Scripture, what provides the believer with wisdom such as that of Solomon is the Spirit of God, illuminating the word of God to the heart of the disciple of Christ.
James describes two very different types of wisdom: earthly and demonic (James 3:13-18), and from his description we are able to avoid making decisions based on earthly wisdom and strive toward living authentically with heavenly wisdom.
James says that earthly wisdom is characterized by jealousy and selfish ambition, and leads to disorder and every vile practice. With that in mind, ask yourself these questions about the decision you have made or will face:
- Am I motivated by jealousy, or will my choice encourage jealousy?
- Am I driven by self-interest, or will my choice feed my self-interest?
- Will my choice lead to disorder (tumult, disturbance) in my family, work, church or social relationships?
- Can I identify in my decision worth to family, church, vocation, or the cause of Christ?
James tells us that heavenly wisdom is characterized by God-centered humility. Ask these questions to check the wisdom of your decisions, thoughts, and actions:
- Is it pure? That is, does it preserve purity in thought, feeling, and action?
- Is it peaceable? Is it based in my peace with God through Jesus Christ, and represent that peace? Does it lead me to be free from worry?
- Is it gentle? That is, is my manner prone to yield where appropriate and courteous?
- Is it open to reason? Is it easily persuaded to a conclusion other than my first impression? Am I teachable about this?
- Is it full of mercy and good fruits?
- Is is impartial and sincere?
Our decisions reveal whether our wisdom is heavenly, from God, or is earthly, from the demons. It isn’t only those decisions we would consider “life changing” to which we need to apply godly wisdom. It isn’t merely that we need to be wise in whether to attend college, in whether and whom to marry, and whether to take that job in a city 1,000 miles away.
We need wisdom in daily life, in making a thousand decisions and ordering a hundred priorities. We need wisdom when it comes to managing our budget, educating our children, committing to the church, and filling our calendar.
The believer should ask himself, then, whether his spending, his child-rearing, his church involvement, and his schedule is a reflection of godly wisdom, or is the product of a demonic, earthly, unspiritual understanding.