The sort of approach I’ve been discussing in the last two posts arises from the second theme I want to talk about in today’s post with some ideas from Proverbs 4—intentionality. Intentionality not only grounds this approach to Christian education, but this approach will also help the people in our congregations to
Be intentional about getting divine wisdom and knowledge.
“Wisdom is the principal thing,” the father tells his son in verse 7. “Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” If we’re going to partake, however incompletely, in the wisdom and knowledge of God, we must be intentional about it. We must work hard to get it.
This theme of intentionality is reiterated throughout this passage. The child listens intently to the instruction of his father in verses 1 and 10. He gives attention to know understanding in verse 1. He does not forsake his father’s law in verse 2. He retains his father’s words and diligently keeps his commands in verse 4. He invests in wisdom and understanding in verses 5 and 7. He strives neither to forget nor turn away from wisdom and understanding in verse 5. He does not forsake wisdom and understanding in verse 6. Heworks to exalt wisdom and understanding in verse 8. He receives his father’s sayings in verse 10. He takes firm hold on instruction and keeps it in verse 13.
The message seems clear. There are too many things threatening to get our students or Bible study participants away from godly wisdom and knowledge. If we are to train our students to know godly wisdom and knowledge with their minds, treasure them in the depths of their souls, and live them out moment-by-moment in their lives, then we’ve got to go to extreme lengths to help them strive for divine wisdom and knowledge.
It’s not just going to come to them. It’s not just going to fall into their laps. We’ve got to help them go after it. As Goethe said in Faust, “What you have as heritage, take now as task. For thus you will make it your own.”
He’s right. The only way we are able to receive this wisdom and knowledge of God from our fathers and mothers—this deposit of divine truth that will change the world—is to take it as task. To work at it. To go after it with everything in us.
This intentionality is most strongly implied by the word “get” in verses 5 and 7. Scholars tell us that this Hebrew word implies buying or possessing or acquiring something. We need to buy or possess wisdom and understanding, realizing that it’s more important than anything else we could ever buy or possess.
I think this is an especially meaningful piece of advice for the culture we’re living in. Verse 7 says, “In all your getting, get understanding.” “In all your getting, get understanding.” In other words, if there’s anything that’s important to possess—important to own—it’s divine wisdom and understanding. We’re tempted to get everything but wisdom, to buy into modern consumerism and get, get, get. We’re often like the preacher in Ecclesiastes, who looked in vain for meaning and satisfaction in material possessions: “Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them.”
The author is telling us here, “The most important getting you should be doing is getting God’s wisdom and understanding.” I like Miles Coverdale’s sixteenth-century rendering of this verse. “The chief point of wisdom is, that thou be willing to obtain wisdom; and before all thy goods to get . . . understanding.”
“Before all thy goods, get understanding.”
We need to heed this godly counsel in our consumeristic age, when our moment-by-moment existence seems increasingly to be programmed and determined by our consumeristic desires, by getting, getting, getting!
We have a desperate need to pass on this ancient wisdom to the generations that are coming after us. We simply cannot afford to fail in this regard. We cannot afford to drop the ball on this one.
My prayer for my readers today is that you will see how crucial Christian education is for imparting wisdom and knowledge in the context of rich relationships and community. Resolve to be intentional about helping your students acquire divine wisdom and knowledge, so that they will diligently go after it with everything that’s in them, seeking it earnestly with their minds, treasuring it deeply with their hearts, and living it out vibrantly in their lives, to the glory of our God, and the expansion of his Kingdom.