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Wisdom for Life | Proverbs

‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’

Proverbs 9:10

The good life put on hold.

These six words sum up a year in which many things we valued became impossible. Some we found we could easily do without, but others were vital things like friendship, community, and touch. Their gradual restoration provides an opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate, and reset.

How can we make sure, in doing so, that we grow in wisdom? The Bible is a good place to turn for help. It contains some books and passages that explore how wisdom relates to the good life. Nowadays, ‘wisdom’ is often used interchangeably either with knowledge or intellectual insight. I may ask a colleague for their wisdom on the benefits of new software. Or a school leaver may decide to study philosophy to gain wisdom from history’s greatest thinkers. But wisdom in the Bible is about practical wisdom. It is even used of those engaged in crafts (Exodus 31:3).

Honing the practical skill needed to live the good life is what the book of Proverbs is all about. Indeed, the book covers an amazing array of down-to-earth matters, including work, sex, relationships, debt, business, charity, and poverty. In doing so it presents wisdom, often personified as a woman, as the pragmatic art of good decision-making and living well.

Despite this apparently earthbound emphasis, wisdom is presented in Proverbs as an attribute of God. Hence the book’s repeated insistence that ‘the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom’. This fear is not about terror but about awe, which means living life humbly and openly before a God to whom all human beings are accountable. Living this way is, in fact, the antidote to terror and anxiety. For the person who fears the Lord ‘rests content, untouched by trouble’ (Proverbs 19:23).

Because of this and many other benefits to the fear of the Lord, Proverbs insists, the wise do better in life than the foolish. Yet most of us know wise people who suffer and foolish people who prosper – a problem addressed in Ecclesiastes and Job (see the next instalments in this series). In the meantime, Proverbs’ practical wisdom serves to highlight a wonderful truth: God is Lord of all the practicalities of ordinary everyday life.

Peter S Heslam
Peter is director of Faith in Business, Cambridge.

What practical wisdom from Proverbs can help you this week on your frontline?  Join the conversation in the comments below.


Wisdom for Life | Ecclesiastes (2/4)


  1. Thanks Peter – great to be reminded that God’s wisdom through Proverbs is profoundly practical. Two verses, repeated multiple times each in Proverbs, that feel poignant in this season are:
    ‘There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.’ (Prv 14:12)
    ‘All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.’ (Prv 16:2)
    Not that I want to be become so introspective that I’m immobilised from action amidst mixed motives – is there any other kind? – but I find this combination helpful to make me pause before making any significant choice. This decision that I’m ready to make with a thin slice of the situation, drawing almost entirely on intuition … what motives are driving me forward? How are they tilting my read on the situation? And where might this end up, if I go full steam ahead? Committing this in prayer, then, has saved me – by God’s grace alone – from bad decisions that could have derailed the greater good to which God is calling.

    Dave Benson
    By Dave Benson Culture & Discipleship Director, LICC
  2. Proverbs 16: 21
    “Good judgment proves that you are wise,
    and if you speak kindly, you can teach others.”

    When I was in the Canadian military, I never had a position of authority; in fact, as a long serving reservist, I was at the bottom of the pecking order. But from there I had the opportunity to mentor young people at the beginning of their careers. I tried to be honest and ethical in my behaviour with everyone, hoping that these young people would learn from me.

    By Dawn Upham  -  10 May 2021

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