Be very careful how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Knowledge is good, but there is a vast difference between “knowledge” (having the facts) and “wisdom” (applying those facts to life). To have knowledge is not to be wise, but to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. We may amass knowledge, but without wisdom, our knowledge is useless. Many men have a great deal of knowledge and are all the greater fools for it. We must learn how to live out what we know. Wisdom is like a sixth sense. It enables us to evaluate circumstances and people, and make the right decisions in life.
I will admit there have been many occasions where I have been unwise. I have been a fool in many ways and this has led to serious consequences in my life and the lives of others. It is not unusual for people who lack wisdom to walk blindly into situations without giving much thought to the outcome. Unwise people do not consider the consequences that follow their unsound decisions.
The Bible, however, instructs us to walk wisely. This means to scope things out, to think things through, and to look at things from every angle. It is all-encompassing. The wise person demonstrates caution in his relationships, finances, decision making, business transactions, family matters, and everything else.
We are surrounded by people whose values are diametrically opposed to everything Christianity stands for. It is easy to get swept along by the current of our society. It may seem as if everything is working against us. There is something in all of us that wants to take the path of least resistance. But to do so is often to disobey the command to “walk wisely.”
There is a common characteristic in those who are wise: they make the most of time. Wise men and women take advantage of every opportunity to do what is right. They look for opportunities to move forward in their faith and service “because the days are evil.”
The essence of wisdom, from a practical standpoint, is pausing long enough to look at our lives – invitations, opportunities, relationships – from God’s perspective. And then acting on it. Many issues we are forced to deal with on a daily basis are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. Complicated situations arise and there seems to be no biblical parallel to use as a guide. In these situations, we are to turn to God for wisdom (James 1:5). We are to ask, “What is the wise thing to do?”
Wisdom takes us beyond the realm of mere right and wrong. Wisdom takes into account our personalities, strengths, weaknesses, environment, and even our present state of mind. Wisdom is often the tool God uses to personalize His will for our lives. What is wise for you may not be wise for me – and vice versa.
All of us are tempted to excuse things because they are not overtly wrong. No specific verse of Scripture prohibits them. But wise men and women don’t ask, “Is there a verse that prohibits this?” Instead, they ask, “What is the wise thing for me to do?” It is not enough to merely stay on the right side of the line that divides right from wrong. In many cases, God would have us stay a safe distance away from the line itself.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Fear refers to reverence and respect. Too often, we want to skip this step, thinking we can become wise by life experience and academic knowledge alone. But if we do not acknowledge God as the source of wisdom, then our foundation for making wise decisions is shaky, and we are prone to mistakes and foolish choices. The wise person fears the Lord, trusts Him, and seeks to obey His will. Wisdom begins when we acknowledge God for who He is, when we recognize His ways are best. Wisdom begins when we submit ourselves to His will, trusting that if we could see our lives from His perspective, things would make perfect sense. The only way to become truly wise is to fear (revere!) God.
* Read more in my book: Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.