“A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”
Pr. 17:24 (NIV)
It was a sensory and information overload to me. As a young writer in my 20s, I went to a conference in New York City and realized how much I had taken in when I returned home to my quiet apartment in Birmingham, Ala. I was so happy to be home, away from the non-stop sounds of horns honking, people murmuring and trash trucks making their way down the streets in the middle of the night; the sights of bright lights, crowds of people, and skyscrapers that seemed to never end; and the copious amounts of information given at conference workshops I attended every hour or so for three days.
There was just so much to take in on this trip, that my eyes wandered everywhere to make sure I didn’t miss anything. While this might have made for an interesting trip, it does not make for a good way to live. For, when we try to focus on too many things, we end up focusing on nothing. Like my trip to NYC, there is so much that competes for our attention in our everyday lives that it makes it hard to figure out where best to look for wisdom when we have important decisions to make.
We’re faced with choices all day, every day. Some of those choices have greater implications in our lives than others, but nonetheless each of them affect our lives. With information at the touch of our fingertips, it’s easy to look for wisdom in so many places and forget that true wisdom is found in God’s word. On the other hand, it’s equally easy to ignore wisdom altogether and try to fill our lives with entertaining things that will keep us from thinking about those tough decisions we have to make. Either way, the result is a wandering eye when we don’t seek God’s wisdom.
My blog post from last week described wisdom as “light” that allows us only to see a short distance because we must trust God with our every step. Proverbs 17:24 implies this same idea in that the wise person keeps his eyes on the wisdom that is set before him. We are to actively seek wisdom (Pr. 2:1-5), but it’s important to understand that wisdom is specifically rooted in God’s word. We know this because wisdom originates from fearing the Lord (Pr. 9:10). Wisdom tells us in Proverbs 8 that she was there with God at Creation, and we know that God, our creator, is all-wise:
Pr. 3:19: “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;” (NIV)
Job 12:13: “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” (NIV)
Ro. 16:27: “to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (NIV)
Is. 55:9: ““As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)
God is wisdom, and as Christians, we are to seek his counsel instead of looking for worldly advice or relying on our own insight. Proverbs 17:24 gives us the image of the wise person always keeping wisdom in view. The Hebrew translation of keeping something in view, or in focus, is pə-nê, meaning “upon the face.” Something that is upon our face is right in front of us.
Practically speaking, we can’t read our Bible every minute of the day, but we can devote a daily time to reading Scripture and praying, and even joining a weekly Bible study. Whatever Bible study looks like in our lives, we should remember that Scripture is the wisdom set before us. It is what we should keep before our faces. Wisdom promises us counsel, sound judgment, understanding and power (Pr. 8:14); honor (Pr. 4:8); and straight paths (Pr. 4:11-12).
In contrast, the foolish person in Proverbs 17:24 looks as far out as he can, looking anywhere and everywhere for an answer or an escape. We have so much information easily available to us through the Internet, that it, like my trip to NYC, can be information overload, which is not true wisdom. God tells us in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV). To find wisdom, we must simply ask for it. There is no need to look far and wide when we know true wisdom is found only in the Lord and as close as his word.