“Wisdom” and “Caution” as non-interchangables

February 13, 2008

Wisdom is a paradox within itself, because to understand what wisdom is you need to be, yourself, wise.  I’ve been thinking a lot about wisdom lately, trying to figure out what it is and really how I can get more of it.  I want to quote some scripture but I don’t feel like looking it up right now.  But I can tell you that the Bible says stuff about wisdom.  It says things like, “those who want to be wise should walk with the wise” and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, stuff like that.

            I have this suspicion that wisdom has been mislabeled. “Wise” has become another word for “cautious” I think.  “He made a Wise Decision” can also be interpreted: “He did the safe thing”.  If a person is hesitant about making a decision we call it “Wisdom”.  The less risky option is often known as the “Wise Choice”. 

The dangerous option, the risky option, the unconventional option will never be labeled “wise”.  At best these options will be called “zealous” and at worst, if they fail, “foolish”.  And here is what it boils down to I think, we associate “wisdom” with successful profit-bearing decisions.  A business man invests his earnings in bonds which slowly and steadily grow and mature.  40 years later this man is retired, playing golf, and wearing sweaters.  “What a wise man” we say.  Another business man, “non-sweater guy”, sells everything he has and gives it to the poor.  40 years later he’s the old guy at walmart that waves when you walk in.  “depressing” we say, “he should have been more wise with his money”.

My example is ridiculous and unclever, I know.  But I can’t help but think that wisdom should no longer be associated with caution and profit.  I think that true wisdom is something much different, something much more exciting; and not easily defined or recognized.  I think that the man who seems like a fool is sometimes a philosopher.  I think that the man who seems wise is sometimes just scared to fail.  Wisdom is some intangible thing that eludes the proud and comes to the humble.  The Bible also says that those who ask for wisdom will receive it, but I think it may be a slow process.  


5 Responses to ““Wisdom” and “Caution” as non-interchangables”

  1. SPH Says:

    Good words bro. They sound like they are written from someone wiser than his age. ha ha ha. ok lame joke. But I did really enjoy it.

  2. Mike great thoughts on wisdom man. Something like this has been rattling around in my brain for awhile, but I could never get enough clarity to explain it. You are a freakin genius!

    I specifically liked your insight that being wise has become synonymous with being cautious. I completely agree 🙂

    Also, I liked your analogy of the two guys. Haha. Maybe closer to the truth than we would like to admit.



  3. Gabriel Says:

    First, I love all your posts. I only discovered it today, but I keep wanting to leave a comment on each and every post and say “Rock on, Mike!”

    While cautious is a good synonym for wisdom, Jesus categorized the investment guy as being the “fool” and the generous one as being “wise.” (Luke 12:20-21).

    I once read through the book of Proverbs… hoping to become wise. I’m sure that you will all say that I failed. 🙂 But in the intro, it struck me that it said:

    “To understand a proverb and a figure,
    The words of the wise and their riddles.”

    So, I approached the whole book, verse by verse, as a series of riddles to figure out. It was pretty cool, and I learned a lot.

    One thing that I learned that I didn’t expect: Wisdom is a subscription service… a person, even. One way to explain the role of Jesus in the Trinity is that he is God’s Wisdom. The LOGOS of John 1 is the buzzword of the day for the logic or wisdom of God. John 1 also indicates that it was through Jesus that God made the world. Elsewhere in scripture (before Christ was revealed), it was always Wisdom that God used to create the earth.

    Ever sing the song “Lord, You Are…” That’s actually Proverbs 8. However, in Proverbs 8 the subject is Wisdom… not Jesus (“Lord”).

    Anyway, all theological textproofing aside, what I learned was that “getting” wisdom is partly about learning stuff and partly about solving puzzles. But mostly about getting insight to (connected with) the source of Wisdom… Jesus. To learn how he thinks… so that we can start to think like Him.

    Hope this is helpful… and not just me listening to my own… uh… keys typing.

  4. Joel Says:

    Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” I think he was right. Biblically speaking, I’d say that experience is a better synonym for wisdom than either caution or intelligence. And genuine experience is all about falling and failing and f***ing things up. Indeed, I think it’s telling that that’s where we tend to me this Jesus guy. So, for whatever it’s worth, I think you’re onto something, that risk is the mother of wisdom, or something far more clever than but vaguely similar to that. Damn. I messed that up . . .

  5. Joel Says:

    “meet.” me-ing Jesus — I don’t even want to know what that might mean, especially because it might be more accurately descriptive than I’d like. But maybe it could be a good thing.

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