The Bible assures us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). But what connection does fear of the Lord have with wisdom?
Let’s explore this connection below by first examining the meaning of the word fear in this context, and then examining how fearing the Lord leads to wisdom.
What Does 'The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom' Mean?
We know that God is good and merciful. We know that we’re made in His image to love, be loved, and glorify Him.
It follows, then, that when the Bible speaks of fearing God, this doesn’t mean that we should fear that He’ll treat us in an arbitrary or cruel manner.
Rather, fear in this context refers to our reverence for God’s authority as the Creator and our submission to Him as the ultimate Judge of our life’s words and deeds.
To fear disappointing God is similar, but on a much grander scale to the way you may fear disappointing your parents out of love and respect for them.
When you fear disappointing God, you accept that His will is for your good. Also, you understand that His judgment can reflect either His love for the life you have chosen to lead or His wrath for it.
Fear of the Lord, therefore, is choosing to live according to the “life manual” God gave us out of love in the Bible.
In following biblical instruction, we gain the wisdom of humility, the wisdom of minding the company we keep, and the wisdom of accepting our human limitations.
What Does 'The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom' Mean for Us?
1. Fear of the Lord gives you the wisdom of humility. God is the source of all things from wisdom to creation to salvation. Submitting to His authority takes humility in acknowledging that man was made in His image, not the other way around.
In other words, there are those who view God as an all-permissive being who blesses any and all human behavior as long as a person’s “heart is in the right place.”
This relativism ignores mankind’s need for the Commandments and the Crucifixion alike and reduces God to an enabling friend who has no standards as to who’s allowed into His House.
Those who view God in this way twist Him into an entity who exists merely to stroke the human ego. Choosing to act with such dangerous pride ignores the reality of hell, as we are well-warned that pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).
On the other hand, those who acknowledge God’s dominion humbly submit to Him as the Ruler of the Universe.
These believers accept that the Lord’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts, especially when life doesn’t turn out as planned (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The humble believer also lets Scripture guide his choices. When he strays from the straight and narrow, the humble faithful knows to repent and correct his behavior for fear of God’s judgment at the end of time.
2. Fear of the Lord gives you the wisdom of minding the company you keep. Have you ever tried to reason with someone who is bent on mocking your position on an issue?
If so, it’s likely that you quickly realized that no amount of solid reasoning could get this person to concede your point. On the contrary, attempts to reason with a mocker often cause him to double down on his scornful behavior.
Simply put, mockers don’t want to be reasoned with. They want to peddle their cynicism at the expense of silencing others and in refusal of learning something new.
The Bible cautions that mockers delight in ridiculing those who try to reason with them by stating plainly that “whoever corrects a mocker invites insults” (Proverbs 9:7).
While it may be infuriating to endure a mocker’s taunts, his behavior does not go unnoticed by God. The Bible tells us that mockers avoid learning and gaining wisdom because they resent being corrected (Proverbs 15:12).
In addition, not only do mockers steer clear of gaining wisdom but they also alienate wise people around them, for the Bible instructs the wise to leave the presence of a fool (Proverbs 14:7).
For those who persist in mocking others, Scripture assures us that, eventually, the mocker alone will suffer for his behavior (Proverbs 9:12).
In teaching us to avoid associating with people who ridicule others, Scripture encourages us to be mindful of the company we keep.
Rather than suffer harm in the company of fools, we’re to make efforts to walk with the wise and increase in our own wisdom (Proverbs 13:20).
3. Fear of the Lord gives you the wisdom to accept your limitations and heed correction. Those who don’t fear the Lord or seek His counsel foolishly reject His wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).
The foolish also take no time to consider the opinions of their fellow man but insist only in the correctness of their own opinion (Proverbs 18:2).
In trusting only his opinion, the faithless must resort to relying on his own human understanding when making choices for himself and those he’s responsible for. This is a risky endeavor at best considering the limits of our human comprehension.
Moreover, following your heart can also spell disaster considering that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).
In stark contrast stands the wise person, who studies Scripture to learn what God expects from him. One way to best connect with what God is teaching us in the Bible is to practice lectio divina.
Lectio divina is an ancient way of reading Scripture that involves meditating on a particular passage and considering the passage from several angles — literal, spiritual, allegorical, and practical.
Aside from heeding God’s instruction in the Word, we’re also to listen to the advice of our loving parents and otherwise people around us.
When we humbly accept the advice and correction of other sage people, we benefit by growing wiser too (Proverbs 13:1,20).
What Does This Mean?
When we fear the Lord, we show Him the reverence and obedience He deserves as our Creator and our ultimate Judge.
Further, fear of the Lord prompts us to study His Word in an effort to gain as much wisdom as we can from the life lessons that God imparts in the Bible.
The fool scoffs at the power of God, but the wise person humbly learns how to walk toward the Lord’s promised reward for obedience — eternal life!
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Dolores Smyth is a nationally published faith and parenting writer. She draws inspiration for her writing from everyday life. Connect with her over Twitter @byDoloresSmyth.