By Don Ruhl
The world values being smart. One of the best-selling education posters is titled, “justification for higher education” (in all lower case, interestingly), showing this incredible place to live with a five car garage in the foreground and expensive sports cars parked in each garage and in the background a three-car garage mansion with a expensive sports car parked out front, all of this perched on a cliff overlooking the beach.
That is what we value in American culture so that is why we persuade kids to get a higher education. Being smart gets us everything, or so we believe.
The Bible values knowledge, but the Bible values other things higher. We may even have to sacrifice knowledge to acquire the right knowledge and other great things.
What could we possess that exceeds being smart?
There is something so valuable that the Bible tells us with all our ability to get this most important thing. Are you willing to do what it takes to acquire what the God of heaven says you need more than being smart?
Those who do not have the riches pictured in that poster often believe that such people are lucky, or it was all handed to them. To get a higher education and then acquire all those fancy possessions requires something that few people want to give.
So it is also for acquiring what the Bible values more than knowledge and what wise people value more than anything. Are you willing to give what it takes to get this thing?
Do you realize that in the last two sentences I gave several clues to a Bible verse that reveals this gem? Let us do some thinking before looking at this priceless jewel.
Knowledge Is Not Number One
Second Peter 1 makes a fascinating exhortation. If we compiled a list of what you need to be successful, should not knowledge dominate that list? Should we not with all our getting get knowledge? Should not knowledge be the thing that leads to all the other priceless character traits we need? Yet, listen to this familiar passage that puts other things ahead of knowledge, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2Pe 1.5–7).
Knowledge did not begin or end Peter’s list. With hard work we have faith and then to that faith we add virtue and to virtue we add knowledge.
Why is that? Why does knowledge not finish off the list the way love does? Without mentioning the five traits that follow knowledge, can we figure out why knowledge is third after faith and virtue?
What we say here holds true not only for matters of the spiritual, but for what we do in the world. He who knows everything he needs to know, including biblical doctrine, but does not have faith does not yet know what he needs to know and is lost. He who knows everything he needs to know, including biblical doctrine, but is not virtuous cannot be trusted and is lost.
Therefore, developing the right attitude exceeds getting knowledge.
However, the chief thing that we add with all our adding, Peter did not list. We have to look elsewhere for what the Bible tells us we should obtain with all our obtaining.
First Corinthians 8 puts things in proper order. I believe, based on this text, that there will be scholars in hell, and ignoramuses in heaven. Paul shows that knowledge is good, but something else is better. Knowledge without the attributes we found in Peter’s list is dangerous. Same here. Therefore, listen to the warning Paul gives about knowledge by itself and why there is something else we should value higher, “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (1Co 8.1–3).
Did you follow Paul’s wording? We know that everyone has knowledge. Yet, what does that gain us, but arrogance? I know some things you do not know and you know some things that I do not know. So we each brag that we are better than the other in something.
On the other hand, love edifies. If I have knowledge alone, I can keep it to myself and only better myself. If I have love, it is not love until I show it to you and so, rather than trying to better myself I better you. When I have knowledge, I make myself better. When I have love, I make others better. Which one then is more valuable? Job said to his friends, “What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you” (Job 13.2).
Job was right. Yet, how did that help any of them? So then, if I think I am smart, I do not yet know the way that I should know and what I should know.
In First Corinthians 8.3, Paul magnified love and knowledge. If I love, I love God. If I love God, He knows me. If I know something, but that is all, I am static on the radio. If I love God, I do not have to worry about what I know or do not know, because God knows me! Is it better for me to know something or for God to know me?
Yet, in all three of those verses Paul did not speak of the primary thing that I should acquire with all my acquiring. For you see, love by itself is not enough. Love alone can be silly, without discernment, and for the wrong reasons shown in bad ways.
The Value of the Foremost Thing
If you find the most important thing, the Bible says you are happy, for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.
The Bible says in another passage that it is better to get this thing than gold or silver. And the Scripture repeats itself, saying again, that this thing is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
If you give your whole self, inclining your ear and applying your heart for this most prominent thing, crying out for it and lifting up your voice for God to hear, seeking for it as you would silver or hidden treasure, then the crucial thing will enter your heart because you made it pleasant to your soul. When you search for it in that manner, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, to deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.
If you can also get knowledge and understanding along with the predominant thing, then this trio will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
What is that third thing? What works with knowledge and understanding to bless us more than all material possessions can bless us?
What crucial thing did Peter not mention when he wrote of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love? He did not neglect it because another Bible writer had already told us of its importance.
What vital ingredient did Paul not mention along with knowledge and love? He did not instruct us in that passage, because he knew that plenty had already been said in other passages.
What thing is so valuable that it is better than gold, silver, rubies or all the things that I can desire? What possession is better than the perfect job? What could I cry for that will give me discretion and understanding, that will deliver me from evil, that will be grace to my neck, that will let me have sweet peaceful sleep at night?
The answer is close. Spend time listening to the Spirit of God in the word daily, and you will recognize even the passages for which I did not give a reference.
The Prime Object
The Bible introduces this thing like this, “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.’”
Before I tell you from where we have read and from where we read earlier when I did not tell you the references, listen to what this Bible writer said.
First, he spoke of applying yourself. He said hear instruction. He exhorted us to give attention to know understanding.
Second, he warned against rejecting these things. He cautioned against forsaking his law.
Third, he taught that we should remember these things. He said his father taught him to let his heart retain these words.
Fourth, he said that we have to do these things. He said his father taught him to keep these commands and he would have life.
Are you ready to receive what Proverbs 3.14–18 valued above all things?
Are you ready to embrace what Proverbs 8.11 placed above all that we can desire?
Are you ready to see what Proverbs 2.11–22 said will happen to you when you get the prime object?
Are you ready to know what Proverbs 3.21–24 said will make your life pleasant?
Are you ready to hear what the rest of Proverbs 4 says after verses 1–4 that we looked at earlier?
Let us continue to read Proverbs 4.5–9,
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.
Now you know what the God of heaven says is The Principal Thing. You know its worth. You know its blessings. So then, how do we get it? I have already shown you some things, but let me highlight three more.
How to Get the Principal Thing
Befriend wise people
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Pro 13.20; Also Pro 22.17–21).
Yet, how do I know the wise person? Do I approach people with difficult questions? James 3 tells you how to identify wise people. If you think about it, you will not be surprised by what we read here, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jam 3.13–18).
Solomon did it and James tells us to do it also. James 1 does not say God will give it miraculously or mystically, but in His own way, He will do it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jam 1.5; See also Pro 2.6).
Get the word of Christ in you
Colossians 3.16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, [then] in all wisdom, [you will be able to] teach and admonish one another…” (Col 3.16), because “in [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2.3). How do you get the word of Christ in you richly? Here is the starting point. Read the Bible from cover to cover annually and read a chapter of Proverbs daily.
Start your journey to find wisdom by getting into the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, for then you can get Him into you.
This is the wisest thing you can do. We want wisdom that we might live. Getting into Jesus Christ gives you eternal life. Get into Christ with your mind by thinking on Him and get into Him with your soul by being baptized into Him.
220 NE Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon 97526-1310, 541-476-31001, Rdruhl@aol.com