Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
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.