Is this an age of wisdom? Is this an age of creativity in art and culture? Is this a generation characterized by those whose wisdom rivals that of Milton, Shakespeare, Dante, or Sophocles? We surely have certain geniuses scattered in the highways and hedges who are honing their crafts. Maybe I will live long enough to see a great American novel to rival Moby Dick or The Road. Maybe.
What I find more prevalent, however, is that this is an age of crassness, of imbecility, of shallowness that exposes an emptiness of soul. There is a vulgarity in today’s world that saps the soul of sublimity. Art museums have been replaced by video games, if you will. We have lost a sense of appreciation for the beautiful, sublime, and wise. Kitsch over depth.
In part of Scripture’s “wisdom literature,” Proverbs explores the theme of wisdom vs. folly. Listen to how clearly Solomon sets the stage for the thirty-one chapters of proverbial wisdom: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 ESV).
Notice what’s happening here. The first part of the verse posits the very genesis of knowledge/wisdom: the fear of the Lord. The wise person is one who fears God. And the second part of the verse restates the same truth by way of contrast. Since the wise person is the one who fears the God of Scripture, what is the other type of person? What is he like? Solomon writes of that type of person by penning, “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” That’s the nature of fools. They don’t fear God. They scoff at wisdom. They mock the idea that they should be instructed. They are puffed up, impetuous, and unteachable.
The controlling principle for wisdom is submission to the revealed will of God in Scripture. Stated another way by Christ Himself, we know a tree by its fruit. When Jesus was teaching in Luke’s account, He said, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43-44 ESV) and in the very next sentence He says, “ . . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 ESV).
Our words ought to reveal wisdom and maturity. May we be those who speak wise words, words grounded in the wisdom of the revealed words of God (Scripture). May we pray to the Lord—the fount of wisdom—to raise up mature, wise men and women in this age diminished by the puerile.