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Skills for Living

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You have probably heard the rather snarky phrase, “You can’t fix stupid!” It’s usually used as a put-down of a person or group that does something particularly inept, ridiculous, or doomed to failure. Of course, stupidity has existed since the dawn of humanity. Foolish thoughts bring foolish actions, and sometimes people spend a lifetime dealing with the disastrous results of such reckless, unthinking, and often sinful activities.

There are two kinds of wisdom. The most common is the worldly wisdom that has guided most of mankind throughout time, which often focuses on how best to serve one’s self or clan. The other is the godly wisdom that derives from love for God and our fellow man. Wisdom is often not a matter of “smarts” or intelligence; many brilliant, well-educated people do stupid, sinful things that bring suffering and shame. You probably know several examples, both in high places and in your local community.

Unwise behavior has set the pattern throughout human history. This pattern is why the great flood in Noah’s day occurred (Genesis 6:1–8). It’s why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (Genesis 18:20–21). It’s why God will eventually intervene to cut short this age—if He did not, mankind’s stupidity would ensure that no human life would be saved (Matthew 24:22). Paul talked about worldly wisdom in his first letter to the Corinthian church: “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Mankind’s knowledge has increased in this age, yet wisdom has not.

Our heavenly Father knew this would be the case. The Bible contains essential knowledge, especially in the “Books of Wisdom,” which include Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and some of the Psalms. In the Hebrew language, the word translated “wisdom” means “skills for living,” which gives us insight into wisdom’s purpose.

What is wisdom? Merriam-Webster states it is the ability to discern—to have insight, good sense, and judgment (“Wisdom,” Merriam-Webster.com).

Proverbs 4:5 instructs, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” Verse 7 states, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” But where do we find it? The patriarch Job knew. “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? … ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding’” (Job 28:12, 28).

Anciently, Moses gave these instructions from God: “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe… for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:1, 6–7).

The book of Proverbs, a collection of the sayings of Solomon, contains wisdom based on the practical application of the commandments, statutes, and judgments to which Moses referred. The book begins by stating its purpose: “to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:2–4, 7).

Those who study these proverbs are inspired by the jewels of wisdom contained therein. Is this knowledge important? The Apostle Paul thought so as he wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16). We all need help in acquiring wisdom. James, Jesus Christ’s half-brother, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Being “stupid”—foolish, naïve, or uninformed—can be fixed. If one studies the Bible, especially the book of Proverbs, one can learn the skills for living an abundant life. It’s worth the effort and we are here to help. The Tomorrow’s World Bible Study Course, a 24-lesson guide to the Bible, is a great start, and is available here, free of charge. And if you would like to continue receiving biblical insight into navigating today's troubled world, be sure to click this link and subscribe to the Tomorrow's World magazine.