“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a). This divine-given wisdom is then contrasted with human foolishness. “…Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7b). Wisdom is a direct result of fearing God. Foolishness is a result of despising wisdom, and therefore, despising the God who gives such wisdom. Wisdom and foolishness are contrasted throughout Scripture and even throughout our pilgrimage in this life on earth. I think of how the fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). However, this foolishness is foreign to the one who holds this belief and worldview. I think of a one-time friend of mine who has recently deserted me over my faith in Christ and desire to glorify him at all costs. He claims to have much wisdom. He is very intelligent by the world’s standard and flaunts it. His arrogance is tattooed all over his body and the pride he has in his claims to wisdom and knowledge reaches to the heights of the Tower of Babel. While he attests to unparalleled knowledge and wisdom, he is in fact hating, rejecting, despising, and blind to true Wisdom. While he claims wisdom, he oozes with foolishness. And outside of God’s grace, this is where all of mankind is found—in a prideful, self-seeking cloud of foolishness. Wisdom is a gift from God. Knowledge of God is a gift from God. And we will never obtain it without divine intervention. Knowledge and wisdom begins with fearing God and Scripture is clear that there is no fear of God before the eyes of sinful man (Ps. 36:1; cf. Rom. 3:18). So, how do haughty, boastful, foolish, and arrogant men and women who are abominations to God (Prov. 8:13; 16:5, 18) find wisdom and knowledge (which is valued and sought after by so many of them)? It must be a gift from the God who reveals himself to “little children” (Luke 10:21). While true wisdom is found in fear of the Lord, worldly wisdom is found in self-exaltation. We see this pattern throughout the New Testament as those who claim great worldly wisdom, such as the guy I mentioned earlier, are caught up under the sovereignty of God. God knows the thoughts of the wise, though they take pride in elevated wisdom (1 Cor. 3:19-20). If you begin to boast in your own wisdom vis-à-vis the true wisdom of the God of the universe, you are best to consider yourself a fool for your soul’s sake for God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27; 3:18).
The pattern that I see in Proverbs and throughout Scripture is that wisdom follows fear of the Lord, which is an overflow of humility, realizing where you really stand in relation to the God of the universe. Against this, I see that foolishness follows self-exaltation, which is an overflow of pride, mistakenly thinking you are great in relation to the God of the universe. My former friend wants nothing to do with me because he considers me to be foolish while he boasts of wisdom. The reality is that I have found wisdom by becoming a fool before a holy God. What a tremendous gift of grace God has empowered me with so that I may fear him. Wisdom is coupled with humility while foolishness is coupled with pride. The one who is truly wise considers himself or herself a fool before God while the one who is truly foolish considers himself or herself magnificently wise in this world while ignoring and despising the God of wisdom. The path to knowledge and wisdom is a path marked by humility, walked by grace and with an eye to the God who is omniscient and all-wise. However, the path to foolishness is marked by pride and carried out with a view of oneself through the lens of a microscope. The former leads to life eternal. The latter to eternal destruction. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, but the fool who claims worldly wisdom will continue to delight in his scoffing and will continue to hate knowledge as well as the Giver of true wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:20-22).
So, pray for humility. Flee the lure of pride. Submit to the infinite wisdom of God Almighty—our sovereign King! For in God’s eternal wisdom, he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross for the ultimate glorification of his name and the ultimate joy of sinners (Phil. 2:8). This wise God is deserving of global worship from a global chorus.
I am humbled before God and his glorious grace. He has paved the way to true wisdom for me to tread as I follow in the footsteps of my all-wise Savior, Jesus Christ. May I ever fear him.