Some verses just sound too spiritual.
Proverbs 9:10 fit the bill in my mind:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
If the verse had said, “it is wise to fear God,” it would have been acceptable. It is one thing to claim that fearing God is a wise move. It is quite another to say that all wisdom starts with fearing God. Sounds like a spiritual exaggeration.
What about the gray-haired fisherman I met at the canal, who cared nothing about God but had figured a lot of life out just by living long enough earn his wrinkles? Was he not wise?
Let’s rephrase that last question and make it even more clear: Picture a man who puts double-sided tape on the back of the checkers pieces so he can play on the now inclined deck of the Titanic. He’s found a solution to the uneven playing surface. But he’s still playing a silly game on a sinking ship. The uneven decks presented an obstacle to playing his game, and instead of seeing that as a warning, he ignores reality in favor of a short-term fix. Was he wise?
Wisdom is Having a Handle on Reality, and Applying It
To be wise is to have a handle on reality, and apply it.
We cannot understand reality without fearing God. The argument goes like this: God ultimately defines reality, the way things really are. Therefore, to understand reality is to understand everything in relation to God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
You cannot properly understand reality, meaning, purpose, or salvation apart from God because all of those things are defined in relation to God. Provers 9:10 is no spiritual exaggeration.
Dave Harvey, in his excellent book titled When Sinners Say “I Do,” writes:
“Wisdom in the Bible isn’t some mystical knowledge of simple street savvy. It’s the life and decisions of someone right related to God. It’s applying what we know is true. Theologian Graham Goldsworthy says,
…[Wisdom] is not primarily a function of how clever we are, nor of how much information we have managed to cram into our minds. Rather, it is a moral choice…to be subject to [God] in our thinking as well as our doing.”
JC Ryle describes the alternative to wisdom:
“Amazing, that with such a prospect of coming judgment, any man can be careless and unconcerned! Surely none are so crazy as those who are content to live unprepared to die.”
And that is exactly what it means to live without the fear of the Lord: to live unprepared to die, the height of foolishness.
What is It All Worth?
What is it worth to claim any knowledge of fact, mastery of skill, or standing among men if it not on context of a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
It is worth less than a crazed man bellowing across the Titanic deck, “I know how to win a game of checkers.”