What does it mean to be wise? Who is a wise man? History’s pages are filled with the lives of those to whom we may point in an attempt to answer those questions. But no man, regardless of how wise he may be, could ever rival the wisdom of Solomon. Jehovah gave Solomon a “wise and understanding heart” unlike any before or after him (1 Kings 3:12). It seems fitting, then, that if one wants to know the true character of a wise man, one should ask the wise man. Therefore, we must turn our attention to Solomon’s inspired description of the truly wise man. The book of Proverbs.
The purpose of the of Proverbs is “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity (Pro. 1:2-3). The recipients of the book are identified in Proverbs 1:4-5: “To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” According to Solomon, the book of Proverbs is intended to impart divine wisdom which will enable one to navigate life with skill and understanding. Listening to what the book says and applying it with haste results in wisdom for both the young man, who has yet to learn it (1:4), and the older, wiser man, who could always learn more (1:5). In short, part of what makes a man wise is his desire to listen and learn regardless of age or maturity. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser. Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Pro. 9:9).
Rehoboam stands as a tragic example of the foolishness of refusing to listen to good advice. Upon his ascension to the throne, he sought the advice of the elders of Israel who instructed him well. But the new king rejected their wisdom and instead followed the direction of his young and foolish contemporaries. His actions resulted in the division of the kingdom (1 Kings 12). Rehoboam’s folly is well captured in Proverbs 12:15– “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” Moses, on the other hand, is a perfect example of listening to sage instruction. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, saw Moses sitting on the judgment seat from morning to night and rightly counseled him against it. He said, “The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself” (Ex. 18:17-18). Jethro advised Moses to delegate the task to good and able men so that Moses would be able to teach the people and bring the difficult cases before God. “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (Ex. 18:24).
What makes a person wise? According to Solomon, a wise man is one who never stops listening to good advice. The temptation to stop listening tends to increase with age. An older man may think he has nothing still to learn, particularly from someone younger than him. But that temptation must be overcome. No one will ever be able to max out their need for learning and growing in wisdom. This edition of the Christian Worker is designed with that thought in mind. Our hope is that this issue will provide a nugget of wisdom for everyone, no matter their station in life. “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Pro. 1:5).