A 9-Step Guide on How to Be Wise

Updated Jun 26, 2024
A 9-Step Guide on How to Be Wise

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" - Proverbs 16:16

What exactly does it mean to be wise? What is wisdom, after all? Aren’t we all wise in certain things? One thing is for sure – the old adage seems true that hindsight is so often 20/20. Perhaps the same applies to wisdom. How many of us have done something we knew was foolish at the time but figured that we could manage it or figure it out? That goes especially, I think, for men in the garage or working on the car or some project – and usually followed by a yell or exclamation of some kind. And an “I knew I shouldn’t have…” or “I knew I should have…” Ever see those images of why women live longer than men? Uh-huh, then you know exactly what I mean.

But let’s be real; we all desire to be wise in our decisions. We yearn to display wisdom to our children regarding our finances and our relationships. But then again, like our kids, we often know right from wrong—it’s just that what we know we ought to do doesn’t always match up with what we want to do. So how do we get there? How do we get our wants to match up with our “oughts” and “ought nots?” How do we find true wisdom? 

Photo Credit:  Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

Slide 1 of 5
Tree growing up out of an open book

What Is Wisdom?

The word wisdom appears 154 times in the Old Testament and 54 times in the New Testament—it must be important.

The thing is, the Bible teaches that worldly wisdom isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness.' The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” - 1Corinthians 3:19-20

Clearly, there is a distinct difference between worldly and Godly wisdom. James explains it quite well:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life and by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:13-17

Peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, good fruit, impartial and sincere. That sounds an awful lot like the “oughts” rather than the wants, doesn’t it? To me, too. In fact, it sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit, as described by Paul – 

“…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” - Galatians 5:22-23

We know this, but we sure are not going to get there on our own. We’ll definitely need some help. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Chinnapong

Slide 2 of 5
Bible glowing in a man's hands

What Is Godly Wisdom?

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment." Proverbs 9:10

Solomon believed – no, Solomon knew that wisdom was most critical in a life steeped in the knowledge of God. Later, Solomon made it clear where wisdom begins. The book of Proverbs is a part of the Bible known as wisdom literature - pretty much the entirety of the writing is about wisdom. Solomon, considered one of the wisest men ever to live, dedicated a great deal to the topic. The first 5 verses of chapter 2 encourage readers to seek wisdom as if it were silver or a hidden treasure.

My child, listen to what I say,
    and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
    and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
    seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
    and you will gain knowledge of God." - Proverbs 2:1-5

While today we understand fear in pretty much a singular way, biblically, it can mean not only as we understand the word, but it can also imply “respect” – in the way a child respects his father. But the word used can also denote a deep, abiding reverence – as if in the presence of greatness. Think of it this way: imagine knowing you are going to meet the president of the United States tomorrow. Imagine you are going to meet Jesus Christ. Uh-huh…that kind of “fear.”

It means we are to recognize the Lord for who he is—having a continual awareness of him, an abiding reverence for him, and a heartfelt desire to live in his will. If we do this, then we will begin to see things from God’s perspective and act accordingly—the beginning of godly wisdom. On the other hand, we will recognize fools by those who choose otherwise:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." -Proverbs 1:7

Solomon also lets us know where wisdom stands – or should stand – in the hierarchy of our lives:

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" - Proverbs 16:16

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/BrianAJackson

Slide 3 of 5
Jesus cross on hilltop sunrays at dusk

What Did Jesus Say about Wisdom?

Our world teaches us to get an education, work hard, have fun, and enjoy life. As long as we don’t hurt others, we’re okay. Eat, drink, and be merry! But that is not wisdom at all. In fact, so much of Jesus’ teaching directly contradicted the traditional “wise” thinking of the day and, even now, is often difficult to apply in our daily lives. In the Sermon on the Mount alone, for example:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." -  Matthew 5:43-48

Love our enemies? How do we do that? 

“If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” - Matthew 6:14

Not always an easy task. 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…" - Mark 12:30-31

So…no more looking out for old number one above all else. Jesus, of course, is highlighting the differences between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. Godly wisdom often goes directly against our natural inclinations to take care of ourselves. There is even an oft-quoted verse incorrectly attributed to the Bible – “the Lord helps those who help themselves.”  No! The Lord helps those who love him and help others. 

Godly wisdom is not focused on self and self-preservation – but rather, is focused on serving the kingdom of God.  We are called to “carry our cross” – in other words, crucify our flesh and live according to the wisdom of the Spirit.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'" - Mark 16:24-25

Paul confirmed this statement in his letter to the Galatians:

"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." -  Galatians 2:20

Clearly, these teachings are completely contrary to common thinking. “Follow your heart.” “Be true to yourself.” “Your happiness is all that matters.” “Live your own truth.” All fallacies – and none supported by godly wisdom. 

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Arthit_Longwilai

Slide 4 of 5
Group of married couples in their 30's gathering for Bible study; how can we be wise?

9-Step Guide on How to Be Wise

None of us is born wise. This is particularly true for finding godly wisdom. We need to seek to understand and learn to listen to our hearts led by the Spirit. 

1. Seek God with all your heart.

 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -  Jeremiah 29:13

2. Trust in Christ Jesus.

"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." -  Colossians 3:16

3. Studying God’s word. 

"For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." -  Proverbs 2:6

4. Ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you.

"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." -  James 1:5

5. Pray – always and about everything.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6

6. When you pray and study – listen.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6

7. Seek guidance from godly people you trust.

"For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers." - Proverbs 11:14

8. Be humble

"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." - Proverbs 3:7

9. Love God. Give him everything you’ve got.

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." - Matthew 22:37

See…simple. Note I didn’t say easy. But it is straightforward. Oh, I’m sure there are other steps, too, but this is a pretty decent start.

Photo Credit: Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

Slide 5 of 5
Woman with an idea, light bulb

Why Godly Wisdom Transcends Worldly Success

The great C.S. Lewis is known to have said:

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Lewis understood that life is not about us. Life is about God. That is why he sent his Son so that we all could learn that – so we all could learn about Him. That is what godly wisdom is all about. We are only tiny little pieces that fit somewhere into God’s big plan. Anyone truly seeking wisdom will understand that. 

The thing is too, so many of us seek God’s wisdom and end up going our own way anyway – choosing our “wants” over our “oughts.” Worldly wisdom remains focused on self. We may be educated, have “business savvy” or “street smarts,” and think we possess enough common sense to see us through. We can play the games of the world well and perhaps successfully. But ultimately, that will lead us to failure in what is truly important.

Worldly wisdom aims at earth. Godly wisdom sets our aim in heaven.

The thing is, for the life of me – and I mean that literally – I cannot think of a single Biblical command or teaching that is not for our own good, for our benefit. Are we not to trust in the One who loves us; who knows all things, from the beginning to the very end? The one who we know has our best interests in his heart. Are we not to seek first His kingdom? (Matthew 6:33

Related Podcast: If you are like everyone else, you live your life trying to do the best that you can without the clarity that you need to make the best decisions. Thankfully, the Bible tells us how we can get wisdom when we are lacking.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Prostock-Studio

SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected]  and on Facebook

Originally published Monday, 10 June 2024.