The Expository Files


  Sinning Against Wisdom

Proverbs 8:35-36

Using the literary device of personification, Solomon describes wisdom in some of the strongest terms possible—he speaks of wisdom in terms of life and death. He writes, “For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36).

Ensconced within this life and death concept of the importance of wisdom, Solomon also sets forth the idea of “sinning against” wisdom as a wrong against our own soul. Have you ever imagined wisdom in those terms? Have you ever considered whether or not you have sinned against wisdom? Do you wrong your own soul?

If any man could speak of the value of wisdom, Solomon could. The annuls of Israel’s history say this of Solomon: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men…” (1 Kings 4:29-31a). This, of course, adds all the more significance to his evaluation of wisdom. So important is wisdom, that the language he uses almost makes you think that he is speaking of finding or hating God, and not merely wisdom. Yet, he is eloquently exalting the value of wisdom.

How is it that one sins against wisdom? In the simplest of terms, to sin is to transgress, or to fall short of or go beyond. It means to miss the mark (cf. 1 John 3:4—KJV). To sin against wisdom suggests the idea of wandering from the way of wisdom.

When it comes to wisdom, one of the greatest contrasts we must learn as Christians is the difference between the wisdom of God, which Solomon extols, and the wisdom of men, which is often shed in a foolish light in comparison. One consistently leads to eternal life, whereas the other is rooted in the ways of this world, which are despised and condemned by God.

The Holy Spirit tells us through the apostle Paul, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor. 3:18). This suggests that those who are so enamored with the wisdom of this world will inevitably be blind to the wisdom of God. By failing to see the difference, they sin against wisdom. The only remedy is for one to become a fool in the ways of this world so that he may become wise in the ways of God.

This same sin against wisdom can be seen in those who reject, or even mock, the cross of Jesus. Earlier in the same epistle Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ 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? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those of us who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

Not only does the wisdom of God render foolish the wisdom of men, its fruit is righteous whereas the fruit of the wisdom of men is sinful. Consider the inspired words of James who writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing
are there. 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. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18). This also manifests how we can sin against the wisdom of God, by attributing the fruit of God to the wisdom of men and the fruit of men to the wisdom of God.

While there is much more that written about wisdom, the basic fact of the matter is that a fool will have no heart for wisdom (Prov. 17:16; 24:7), whereas an understanding man will not only seek it, he will find it, keep it and live by it. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good” (Prov. 19:8). In another place, the wise man writes, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).

By Jonathan L. Perz
From Expository Files 19.2; February 2012