Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 8:12
"I, wisdom dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion"
This is one of the most amazing groups of verses in the Scripture. It stretches from verse 12-14. It could be titled: How to Make Great Decisions or The Eleven Friends of Wisdom or How to Find Wisdom in the Toughest Situations.
This group of verses tells us how to find wisdom; how to find that elusive thing called the wise choice or action. When you don't know what to do, then this is the way. You will recognize wisdom by the company it keeps. If you find these other things, then you will find wisdom on any subject and in any situation.
Remember that we are looking for wisdom or the wise choice among several alternatives or the wise path among many possibilities. The short definition of wisdom is the triple-win: the choice that God wins, others win, and I win. This could also be called God's will. The other choices that are not wise are various levels of foolishness. Foolishness is the selfish, impulsive, rebellious choice or path. It looks good but only for the short term.
The passage in front of us is a template to objectively evaluate each possible decision or life path and make sure that you are not duped into a foolish short-term path.
These are the Eleven Friends of Wisdom that must be used to evaluate what to do so that you are doing the wise thing. These, in effect, form a grid for evaluating potential choices and decisions. If you run your options through this gauntlet, it will be clear what you should do.
You are looking for these friends of wisdom:
Fear of the Lord
No Pride or Arrogance
No Evil Way
No Perverted Mouth
I wisdom dwell with prudence
The Hebrew word prudence is the word ormah which is guile, prudence, subtlety, planning, strategy. This verse is very interesting because it says that when a person is acting wisely, they will have prudence also. They will have a plan for what they are doing. They will have objectives, reasons, and plans that make sense to accomplish the desired results. Wisdom is not usually spontaneous. It thinks through what is wanting to be accomplished and how to bring about the desired result.
Solomon is saying that those who would be wise must have the ability to be focused on a goal and to be able to be emotionally objective in the midst of the decision.
Solomon would ask, "Do you have a goal?" "Do you have a strategy?" "Are you using your reason or your emotions to make this choice?"
As a very good friend of mine always says when his children ask if they can do something, "If this is wisdom where is the prudence?" Show me that your idea or thought or desire is wisdom by showing me the prudence. What is the goal? How are you going to get there? Is this just emotional or temptation?
The reason people who abstain from sexual relations before marriage have been called prudes is because they kept in mind that they wanted to have a great marriage in the future and not just a good time in the present. It is their planning, their strategy, their goals, and their objectivity that allows them to say no to the present impulse.
A few questions that parents have to continually get children to answer: Where will this activity lead? What do you want to accomplish with this activity or friendship? What do you want your life to be like in ten years? What is your plan to get there?
Wisdom dwells with prudence. Wisdom has a plan. Wisdom looks at the opportunities and objectifies which ones will accomplish the desired results and which ones will not.
Foolishness is very spontaneous and impulsive. It just waits for the next interesting thing to come along. It cannot non-emotionally evaluate the options.
This clearly means that we must ask ourselves what is our plan to accomplish the goals and dreams that God has put in our heart. Without those plans and goals, we will not have wisdom. Wisdom lives with prudence. Many times the only way to avoid temptations, destructive opportunities, and interesting non-productive rabbit trails is because you don't have time, energy, or money because of your pursuit of the goals you have set. Avoiding sin is often about not having time for it: “I have more important things to do.” Keeping away from subtle, unknown destructive pathways is often about being too busy fully pursuing what you know is God's will.
If you believe that a relationship is wise, where is the prudence? What is the objective? What is the plan? How are you going to pull this off? What would be a violation of a godly plan? Go find knowledge and discretion. If you believe that a business opportunity is God’s will, then what is the objective? What is the plan? How are you going to pull this off? What would be a violation of a godly plan? Where will this end up?
Sometimes a choice or opportunity is God's will and it does represent wisdom, and prudence clearly emerges the more you think about it. You know what should be done. How to get there also emerges, but as you are moving forward you can begin to dwell not on the goal or the plan but the benefits of the plan or the results of the wisdom, the money, relationships, prestige, and power of accomplishing the goal. Stay objective and live with prudence rather than coveting the attending blessings of wisdom. Keep working the plan. Keep your head down.
The English dictionary for prudence: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
Prudence is the ability to evaluate potential choices and actions using reason with a detachment and lack of emotion and see where that choice/action leads. It clearly carries with it a goal orientation; a future orientation. If you are going to truly find the wise choice, have you evaluated each choice with this level of precise detachment? What will happen if I go down this road? Where will it end up? This is close to the T aspect of the Myers Briggs Temperament Type scale: Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.
This means that you must get past what you personally feel about different orientations and detach from it enough to really evaluate it with as little interference from your emotions as possible. Whether it is a win choice for you will come later.
I find knowledge and discretion
This tells us that if we are going to find the wise choice, then we must get as much information as possible and maximize our skills. This is what knowledge is – information and skill. Sometimes you can only get information at certain times or in certain places, so you have to go there and get it to find the wise decision. Notice that wisdom doesn't always have knowledge, but it goes and finds it. What are the real facts about the options that are facing me – not my guesses or suppositions?
knowledge: This is the Hebrew word daat which means information and skill. In the ancient biblical view of knowledge there were two forms of it. That information form of it is where new bits of data are added and new facts and new ideas. The second form of knowledge is skills you can learn, ways of behaving, and tactical strategies and actions that allow you to accomplish a particular goal or desire.
Solomon is saying that you must have knowledge if you are to be truly wise. It is not the same as wisdom, but it is the raw material that wisdom requires. Realize that since this is true, it means that coming to the wise decision or wise life may take time as you gain the information or skill that are required to accomplish the wise action.
This is the Hebrew word mezimma which means purpose or a plan or a plot. It is consistently translated as discretion when it is used in a positive context and scheming or plotting when used in a negative context. Discretion means the ability to make discrete and responsible choices. Or it is focused on the key decisions that are a part of a plan or accomplishing something. You cannot have found wisdom unless you have or find a plan on what to do. Wisdom is not impulsive; it is very thoroughly thought through. What is the plan for each option and how do they unfold? You do not have wisdom if you are always making it up as you go. Clearly there will be some improvisation and some spur-of-the-moment thinking and course corrections; but by and large, wisdom does not fly by the seat of its pants. It plans.
When decisions, choices, and potential actions are evaluated against and with these perimeters, then the wise choice will be clear. These are the eleven friends of wisdom:
Fear of the Lord
No Pride or Arrogance
No Evil Way
No Perverted Mouth
When you can't find wisdom clearly among the choices available to you, then find his eleven friends and he will be very near by...