“How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to get insight rather than silver!” – Proverbs 16:16
This is true for a number of practical reasons.
- The value of money/gold/silver fluctuates. When an economy crashes or in times of crisis it can become virtually worthless. During WWII and in the midst of the holocaust, bread was being bought with precious jewels and enormous sums of money. Wisdom on the other hand never loses its value and in times of crisis is even more essential.
- Once you spend money it’s gone. On the contrary, the more you use wisdom or even give it away to others, the more it grows.
- Money is useful for some things, but the saying “There are things money can’t buy” is true. Wisdom can impact every area of our lives, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1, after Solomon was made king, the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’
Solomon answered God, ‘You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?’
God said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” – 2 Chronicles 1:7-12
After reading the story we know that asking the Lord for wisdom and discernment would be the proper choice, but if we had not just read the story and the Lord appeared to us and told us that we could ask for whatever we want, how many of us would choose wisdom?
1 Kings 3 describes Solomon’s request as asking for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (vs. 9), “discernment in administering justice” (vs. 11), and a “wise and discerning heart” (vs. 12).
While information is a part of it, wisdom is not merely an accumulation of facts. True wisdom is not simply knowledge, but also the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and an understanding of justice.
Solomon did not ask to be smart so that he could take advantage of his knowledge and get rich and defeat his enemies. He asked for wisdom so that he could administer justice and lead his people well with discernment. God promises to bless Solomon and cast down his enemies, but that is not the main purpose of the wisdom that God grants him nor the reason he asked for it.
As we seek wisdom that is “better than gold” and “insight rather than silver”, the purpose is not to be able to use that wisdom to know what stocks to invest in and how to get the best return for our money. Wisdom may help us to make sound financial decisions, but that is a secondary byproduct that may or may not be present.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10
True wisdom is contained in scripture. It is found by growing closer to our Lord and following his leading and guiding.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes using his wisdom to explore all of the things that people chase after wealth, achievement, pleasure, etc. He says that “In all this my wisdom stayed with me.” (2:9). Despite all of his success in every area that he pursued, he “hated life” and it was all “meaningless” (2:17).
“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
All of the wisdom and success outside of God leads nowhere. It is only in the Lord that satisfaction and true joy are found. We may find fleeting happiness for a time in His creation, but only in the creator do we find lasting joy and contentment. Solomon had wisdom, but when he used it to pursue gold, silver, anything other than the Lord, it led to disappointment. True wisdom is discernment between “chasing the wind” as Ecclesiastes puts it and pursuing a deeper understanding and relationship with the Lord.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5