31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17–18, NKJV)
Just as the wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, and demonic” has identifiable traits (bitter envy, self-seeking, pride, lies, and confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), so does the wisdom from above. God-approved wisdom is marked by dignified purity, and so is “consecrated to the service and glory of God” (Lange). With God as its object, wisdom from above has a social character that reflects innocence toward men and women. This wisdom is peaceable (not warring, Jas. 4:1). It is gentle – mild, moderate, fair, and just in its judgments and treatment of others. Approved wisdom is “willing to yield,” it is easily entreated, “open to reason” (ESV). Wisdom hears all the evidence instead of entrenching itself without reason against it. It is full of mercy and it bears the impartial, genuine fruit of compassion. Because of its nature, heavenly wisdom plants the seeds of peace (not hostile confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), and so produces peace (Matt. 5:9). Let us pursue the wisdom that is from above and bear the fruit of righteousness.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:13–16, NKJV)
Wisdom and understanding are traits much needed by every Christian. These are observable character traits – shown by one’s good and meek conduct (v. 13). Wisdom is the skillful use of knowledge; it is excellence in the application of knowledge. Understanding is akin to this, as it is the evaluation, comprehension, perception, or discernment that gives knowledge its skill and usability. Understanding evaluates and wisdom actuates knowledge. We must avoid the false wisdom that is generated by selfish conceit. Measuring itself against others and elevating itself over others, earthly wisdom works on the basis of self-interest instead of truth (v. 14, 16). Its selfish, sensual instinct of survival leads to bitterness, envy, confusion, and evil. It is fleshly, faithless, futile, and demonic. We remember those became fools while professing to be wise. They plunged into the darkness of sin’s depravity and death by refusing to recognize, honor, and thank God (Rom. 1:20-23). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). To leave God and His truth out of your life is exceedingly foolish.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14–16, NKJV)
The “natural” man is not guided by divine revelation (v. 14). He “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” – the gospel – that was revealed to Christ’s apostles and spoken by them through inspiration (1 Cor. 2:10-13). Reminiscent of Proverbs 14:12 (“there is a way that seems right to a man…”), he lives according to human reasoning (“the wisdom of this age,” 1 Cor. 2:6) instead of divine truth. His carnal way of thinking prevents the spiritual discernment he needs to receive truth (1 Cor. 3:1-3). To him, “the message of the cross is foolishness,” and he perishes in his sins (1 Cor. 1:18). By contrast, the “spiritual” person “judges (evaluates) all things” in the light of God’s revelation (v. 15). This person refuses to tell God what His will is (or should be, v. 16; Rom. 11:34). The spiritual person trusts and obeys the gospel – the revealed mind of Christ. Those who rely on themselves attempt to instruct God, but the spiritual receive His instruction. Let us be the spiritual person who receives the things revealed by the Spirit of God.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
5 “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5–7, NKJV)
People everywhere are trying to get fortune, fame, and fun. But, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I want to get some wisdom!”? Unfortunately, wisdom is not like driving up to the gas station and topping off the tank. Wisdom is the careful understanding and application of truth. Solomon prayed for “an understanding heart” to judge Israel and to “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). He asked God for a “hearing” heart, and God blessed him with “a wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12). So, how do we “get wisdom?” James said to “ask of God” for wisdom (James 1:5). Today’s passage adds that we must listen to and not turn away from the words of our heavenly Father by loving and keeping the wisdom that comes from God. God’s wisdom is revealed in the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 1:23-25). Wisdom is developed by having a hearing heart that receives God’s words, loves them, and keeps them. Many people are striving to get many things – wealth, fame, power, a name for themselves, etc. – but, the principal thing to get is wisdom from above. That wisdom, when remembered and kept, will bring you blessings now and forever more (James 3:13-18).
2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2–3, NKJV)
Each of us face common experiences of humanity. We also face death, which is common to us all. Our experiences and our end are true of “under the sun” (life on earth). Whether it is “time and chance” or a “purpose under heaven” in which we choose to engage, human life has been so designed by our Creator that wisdom teaches us to accept that “our works are in the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 9:11; 3:1-8; 9:1). This does not mean we are doomed to a life of fatalism without freewill. It means the purposes of God will prevail as He sets the boundaries of our times and seasons, and as His providence oversees and operates (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). The “one event” and the “one thing” in today’s passage (as the end of verse 3 shows) is death. When hearts are set on evil things, no preparation is made for death. That is madness, not wisdom. Knowing we will die, we should get ready for it. Be righteous and wise, fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecclesiastes 9:1; 12:13).