Last weekend we did a little rearranging of our basement which is also the home office where Aileen and I work every day. This rearranging involved moving some stuff out and moving some other stuff in. We had a rather large and heavy piece of equipment we needed to remove, so we placed an ad online and told whoever wanted it would need to bring both the people and the tools necessary to get it out. The people who claimed it showed up with the people and with some tools, but not the tools. I watched for quite some time as they tried to take it apart with tools that were not quite right for the job. Eventually they managed, but it took a lot more time, and required a lot more effort than it should have.
I thought of their bumbling and their fumbling this morning when my devotions took me to Ecclesiastes 10:10: “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” The people who came to my home may not have needed a sharp edge, like the axe in this Proverb, but what they did need was the right tool. Their failure to bring it cost them time and bother. Frankly, it left them looking rather foolish.
Wisdom is a tool that is useful in all of life. In fact, according to Solomon, it is the one tool that is most crucial for living a life that is pleasing to God. Wisdom, rightly understood, is the acknowledgement of God’s existence and the willingness to cede to his authority. The wise person is not the one who has accumulated lots of facts and can destroy everyone else at Jeopardy, but the one who has submitted himself to the will of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” No wonder then that elsewhere Solomon says: “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight” (Proverbs 4:7).
Life inevitably brings us many areas in which we need to make tough decisions. In some of these we receive explicit guidance from Scripture—it tells us what we must do and it tells us what we must not do. In such cases the only right option is to obey. However, there are many more times where Scripture does not give us such explicit guidance. In those times we are forced to choose between various options that can all be viable, and it is here that we must rely on wisdom. It is here that wisdom proves itself an invaluable tool.
If you’ve ever tried to split firewood with a dull axe, you know the frustration and the sheer effort required. Sharpening the axe is a simple and effective solution that allows you to do the same job with dramatically less effort, not to mention better results. In much the same way, wisdom allows you to make decisions that are appropriate and effective. The more wisdom you accumulate, the better you can make decisions, and the more wisdom you accumulate, the faster you can make decisions. With little wisdom, you are essentially swinging a dull axe at all of life’s “trees.”
Thankfully, there is wisdom to be had. Wisdom is ours for the taking if only we will take it. The call of Proverbs is the call of all of Scripture. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:5,7). Are you sharpening your axe? Are you growing in wisdom?