Last week, we saw that Solomon relied on God less over time. He seemed to have it all, yet he was not profitable in God's eyes. When we understand Solomon's thought process, we will find there is an important lesson for all of us. We will do this by looking at two of the books Solomon wrote that deal with our thought process: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
The purpose of The Book of Proverbs is stated in the first four verses:
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” (Proverbs 1:1-4)
There are two big concepts that make up Proverbs: 1) Justice and 2) Causality. Justice plays a big role in Proverbs. Over and over again, Solomon invokes the Justice equation to show that it will all equal out. He shows how someone who thinks they are gaining in the short-term will eventually have to pay in the Long Term.
Proverbs is written in terms of cause and effect examples. Solomon seems to either be telling us what to do and give the benefit or tell us what not to do and then gives the punishment. For example, Proverbs 10:16-17 says:
“The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin. He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”
The most interesting examples relate to the use of our mind. It is mentioned several times that people who like correction (contrastive thinking) are wise because they grow. While people who don’t want correction are fools because they are pursuing comfort (and live with contradictions). Proverbs addresses all four God-given principles: contrastive thinking, non-contradiction, causality, and growth.
There are three measures that are constantly repeated in Proverbs: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. These same three measures played a crucial role in the book of Job. Let’s look at each of these and how they relate.
KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM
Knowledge is the ability to know facts. Someone who has a lot of knowledge knows a high number of facts. An example is to know how a car works.
Understanding is the ability to take facts (knowledge) from several areas and fit them together to create a higher knowledge. Understanding creates knowledge. Understanding is like modeling because it identifies the implications and the likelihood of possible occurrences.
For instance, if I have knowledge of friction and the physics of bodies in motion, and weather effects in addition to the knowledge of how a car works, I can make a prediction. For example, if I accelerated a car towards a brick wall, I could calculate the distance from the wall I would have to slam my brakes in order to get within six inches of the wall without hitting it.
Wisdom is shown in our decisions (actions). Wisdom is proven by profitability. Someone who has wisdom makes profitable choices in the Long Term. Someone who lacks wisdom makes unprofitable choices, even though they look profitable in the short-term. In the above example, wisdom says, “Why accelerate a car towards a brick wall?” Wisdom would be shown when we don’t do it.
Proverbs says wisdom is the principle thing (Proverbs 4:7). It also says we are supposed to get wisdom and understanding. Now we can see why wisdom is principle and understanding follows closely behind. We are supposed to be profitable and wisdom is what drives our profitability. In addition, it is hard to have wisdom when we don’t understand the implications.
In the above example, understanding would tell us that there are several things that could cause our calculations to be off. Understanding would even anticipate things that have nothing to do with our model. For instance, what if a child or a person on a bike happened to get between the wall and us? Understanding is necessary for us to make wise decisions.
When someone makes a poor decision, I analyze the break down in his thought process by determining if it was a lack of knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. For example, the first question I might ask is “Did you know that act was against the law?” If he didn’t then he is in trouble because of a lack of knowledge. Beware. People in comfort mode won’t want to admit they didn’t know something, so they will quickly reply, “I knew that.”
My next question focuses on understanding. I’m trying to determine how well he understood all the implications of his decision. For instance, I would ask him if he understood that breaking the law may result in going to jail, getting shot at, or doing even worse crimes to cover up the initial crime. Remember, understanding identifies the implications. Again, comfort minded people might be quick to reply, “I understand all that.”
That only leaves wisdom. If he did have knowledge and understanding, then his decision was simply to risk it. That is where wisdom comes in. His lack of profitability proves he lacked wisdom.
Most likely, he lacked wisdom because he got a short-term view and listened to his flesh, that is, his emotions. In reality, this is a lack of understanding of Righteousness. If he understood profitability is measured in the Long Term, he wouldn’t have made a decision focused on the short-term. If we have wisdom, then we will be profitable in our actions.