Wisdom (Matthew 11:19)

Photo by Юлія Вівчарик on Unsplash

What is wisdom?  When pressed for a definition, most Christians will turn to Job, who   famously said, “‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, 

and to shun evil is understanding.’” David said the same thing in Psalm 111, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But if the fear of God – holy reverence for God in light of knowing who He is – is the beginning of wisdom, what does mature wisdom actually look like?

Proverbs 1 includes the call of Wisdom. An antropromophic image, it tells us much of the character of wisdom, saying in part, “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, 

in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you.” 

It is a powerful word picture. Wisdom is looking to be accepted by those made in God’s image. But they are ignoring her. They seem oblivious to her cries, through she goes to the most populous and popular part of the city and raises her voice to be heard above the din of the crowd. She seeks to enlighten them, to cause them to turn from ignorance and take her hand in submission to her enlightenment. 

We don’t have to dig too deep into that passage to see that mature wisdom is involved in prophetically calling others to God’s counsel. Jesus knew that. Jesus not only knew that passage, as God incarnate He embodied it. So it is not without intention that Jesus notes, “But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” In other words, the wisdom of wisdom incarnate is made obvious by particular action. Specifically, the action of calling those made in God’s image to Himself. Everyone who has wisdom does that. Every wise person does as John did and as Jesus did; They call others to repentance! They call others back to relationship with God. More than that, they go to where people are, and they do all they can to reach them with the knowledge of God, just as Wisdom itself does in the book of Proverbs. 

Obviously, we are not justified or vindicated by our participation in evangelism. But our wisdom – our sense of God’s mind alive in us – is clearly shown (or if you will – vindicated) by our action of calling others to Him in contextually appropriate ways. This is wisdom, that we are not perfected apart from incarnational participation in God’s mission. 

Know for sure that evangelistic intent can replicated apart from wisdom. It can be assigned – either by guilt or by zeal. But if it is done by mere human assignment it is done by sheer human willpower – and it consequently is not prophetic nor incarnational.  Subsequently, it is an exhausting and mostly fruitless exercise, because we are trying to lead God instead of the other way around.

As we gain maturity we learn how to walk in step with the Spirit’s leading instead of trying to lead Him. Then our participation in God’s mission becomes natural. It becomes the joyful outworking of a holy mind set on God’s purposes instead of a willful act virtually independent from the Spirit. And then you know that it is Wisdom, being vindicated by her actions. 

The works of wisdom are always done by the children of wisdom.

R.C.H. Lenski

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How do you feel when called upon to intentionally witness for Christ? What does incarnational participation in God’s mission look like in the context of your life?