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What Is Wisdom and How Do We Get It?

Photo: Reggiani

Wisdom, like virtue, is something that we are constantly being encouraged to acquire.

The call to wisdom is explicit in Scripture. “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” says Psalm 90:12. “Get wisdom, get understanding!” urges Proverbs 4:5. Proverbs 8:11 declares that “wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” Such is its power that wisdom itself is depicted as calling out to men later in Proverbs 8.

The primacy of wisdom is also reflected in the New Testament, in verses like James 1:5and Colossians 3:16.

What is wisdom? It seems related to knowledge but also quite distinct. In everyday parlance, wisdom implies a certain attitude or stance towards reality and issues in action of some kind. I may know that it is unsafe to venture into a crack house, but I am not a wise man unless I put that knowledge into action by actually avoiding such an excursion. A young man is foolish if he lives as if his earthly body were immortal. He is wise if he doesn’t.

In the Old Testament, wisdom is connected with God’s role as Creator. This is particularly clear in Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 3:19 states, “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom; He established the heavens by understanding; by his knowledge the depths burst apart, and the skies distilled dew.” In Proverbs 8 wisdom is cast as the essential companion of God as He undertook the work of creation:

I was there when He set the heavens into place;
When He fixed the horizon upon the deep;
When He made the heavens above firm,
the foundations of the deep gushed forth;
When He assigned the sea its limits,
So that its waters never transgress His command;
When He fixed the foundations of the earth (vv. 27-29).

The connection between wisdom and the act of creation is also reinforced in Job:

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
The birds of the sky, they will tell you,
Or speak to the earth, it will teach you;
The fish of the sea, they will inform you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this?
… With Him are wisdom and courage;
His are counsel and understanding (Job 12:7-9, 13).

We can thus define wisdom as being the knowledge of the Creator in a twofold manner. First there is the wise plan according to which he made the heavens and the earth, the land and the seas, and all the living things that populate them. This in turns leads to a secondary knowledge: because He made all these things, God knows them intimately and perfectly—better than they know themselves, to the extent that creatures do.

Read more at Catholic Exchange. 

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