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Does Age Equal Wisdom?

We are often told that with age comes wisdom and in many ways this is true. Certainly a woman who has been walking with the Lord for many years and pressing into his character for decades will, through his graciousness, be further along the path of sanctification and thus wiser than a young woman just beginning her relationship with the Lord.

What becomes abundantly clear, however, as one contemplates the correlation between age and wisdom, and as one studies the topic of wisdom in the Scriptures, is that length of life doesn’t necessarily equal depth of wisdom, but rather it is the depth of reliance upon and submission to the Lord that have a more direct influence on a person gaining this most desirable of qualities. 

This means that older women can often be shining examples of lives bound to the Lord Jesus and thus filled with his wisdom, but that they can also be sad demonstrations of lives wasted in self-reliance, biblical ignorance, and worldly reasoning. It also means that while youth is often associated with foolishness, it can also, through the grace of God, be filled with the wisdom of God as the young teenager, wife, or mother daily relies upon the Holy Spirit’s  guidance for her life.

Last month we spent a great deal of time looking at various aspects of the life of wisdom here at the blog and the Book Club read through Lydia Brownback’s A Woman’s Wisdom which focused on the book of Proverbs as it applies to the lives of women. Because of this, I have been camping out in the book of Proverbs for a while now, soaking in the blessings found there. One of the principles I have been somewhat surprised by and incredibly encouraged by as I have prayed and underlined my way through the book is the Lord’s emphasis on humility. If you were to do a quick cursory reading of Proverbs, you would see that wisdom and knowledge are more often than not given to the person who is willing to seek council, to listen to reproof, to admit her own shortcomings, and to diligently seek out the Lord’s wisdom rather than rely upon her own perceived knowledge and insight. Consider these examples:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (1:7)

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” (1:8&9)

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. (1:23)

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (2:1-4)

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” (4:7-9)

“The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.” (10:8)

“Whoever heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” (10:17)

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (12:1)

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (12:15)

“A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” (13:1)

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (14:27)

“A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” (15:5)

“Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (15:32-33)

…and these are only some examples from only half the book! I think we can easily say that God gives wisdom to those who see their need for it, who seek it from him, and who are humble enough to admit their own abundant shortcomings. Why is this good news? Because it means that anyone who humbly seeks the Lord can seek to live a wise life!

It means that a young teenager wondering how she can practice wisdom in her online life can indeed find wisdom if she seeks it from the Lord. Within the Word of God and through the counsel of older, godlier people (and dare I say it, her parents), she can find the instruction and practical applications to help her navigate this tricky area of modern social life.

It means the new wife can confidently walk into the sacred covenant of marriage knowing that there is wisdom and insight found within the Word of God sufficient for her daily interactions with her husband. As she humbly seeks the Lord’s instruction and accepts his discipline, he will be faithful to conform her into the image of Christ and allow her to live within her marriage in a God-honoring way.

It means there is wisdom for the young mother who feels she is drowning under the weight of the task assigned to her. As she daily lays her children at the Lord’s feet and seeks his guidance in raising them, she can be assured that he will provide the grace necessary to do so in the wisdom of Christ.

But what about the not-as-young women who feel that they are not yet where they would like to be when it comes to living a wise life? What about the woman who was saved later in on or the woman who simply hasn’t sought the Lord’s instruction as diligently as she could have in years past? It can be tempting to think that once you have gotten to a particular point in life you either have wisdom or you don’t, you either are a wise person or will never be a wise person. This is a serious error in thinking because it denies the abundant grace of God to transform people no matter how old they are.

If wisdom can be claimed by the young, then surely it can be claimed by the old, because it is a gift given by the Holy Spirit and not a work that one can produce within oneself. If wisdom is characterized by humility and an understanding of one’s own inability, then even those who have spent much of their lives submitting to the world’s false wisdom or to their own personal “wisdom” can decide to instead seek the Savior’s abundant grace and submit themselves to his revealed Word. He is a benevolent God who enjoys lavishing his good gifts upon those who are unworthy. He loves to make foolish women wise.

Isn’t this what is so marvelous about salvation in the first place? It is not a work, it is not a merited award, it is a gift–completely undeserved so that no woman may boast in herself.

So it is with wisdom as well. He offers it freely to any who would accept it, to any who would seek after it. Do you lack wisdom? Ask of God and he will give it to you. Young or old, seek wisdom through his Word and he will reveal it to you.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)

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