Information vs. Wisdom and the Book of Proverbs

"We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom"
I passed that sign one day this summer and have not been able to stop thinking about it. We have more information more technology and greater connectivity than ever yet we are more lonely, divided and indecisive than ever.

This project wall has become a recent favorite. Yet I look at all these books, not quite the collection Belle got in Beauty in the Beast (oh Disney how you tease - only in fairytales), and wonder what good has all this information been in my life.  These pages have mentored, shaped, guided, inspired, and challenged me. But it's not in the information and the words on the pages alone that changes you, it's what is done with them. The difference of information and wisdom.

Once a year I like to spend 31 days in the 31 chapters of Proverbs. This year in May a group of ladies did this together and talked through the chapters each week. Most weeks we felt pretty beat up, seeing ourselves in the foolish unrighteous one, being exposed to the ugliness of our sin and shortcomings and walking away from 7 chapters each week feeling... well "whoof" was our usual sentiment.

There is a danger to take these wise sayings of Solomon as simply moralistic teaching - live this way and it well go well for you - as qualifying efforts for the Gospel. The lessons and characteristics in Proverbs ultimately point to Jesus as the wisest man, the Son perfectly attuned to the Father, the true husband, the faithful son, the true and loyal friend,  the perfect worker, the good steward who knew how to handle wealth, and the man who followed God’s plans.  This is not a book of virtues but of redemption in Jesus. He redeems our morals and character to His likeness when we abide, when we live out the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of the day.  

Proverbs 1:20-22 says wisdom is calling out:
"Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:" How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?"
Wisdom is crying out in the everyday place of life -  in the hustle and bustle of the noisy streets, in the markets, and at the city gates. What do you envision? An old wise woman? Gandolf? Walking around crying out for their attention, to be listened to. Why? Because much calls for our attention, drowning truth and wisdom out if we aren't attuned and listening for it, to it. And lesser things can disguise themselves as the good eternal things.
There are two voices compared in parts of Proverbs. Lady Folly and Lady Wisdom. They both call out to be heard. They cry out saying the same thing in Proverbs 9:4,16 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" Who will you listen to, follow, and how will you discern if the voice is wisdom or the voice of folly?
Where is Wisdom found?
  • The very Word of God, The bible is God's revelation to us, His wisdom, counsel, way for life. Psalm 19 says His word is perfect, reviving the soul; sure, making wise the simple; right rejoicing the heart; and pure, enlightening the eyes.

  • The Spirit of God reveals, searches, illuminates, gives understanding, instructs and gives Christians the very mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:6-16)

  • Those living ahead of us and have gone before us. Those saints of old who have scribed their life lessons with pen and paper - read their pages. The people around you, seasons ahead of you with grey hairs and lines on their faces marking the years of their lives and the lessons learned - seek them out.

  • Suffering - frees you, detaches your hold on temporary things,  teaches you what matters, gives birth to eternal perspective and new values. Don't let suffering slip through your days without letting it refine and grow you in wisdom.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

In Proverbs 8 wisdom is there again, calling out, in the coming and going places of our day.
  • At the "height beside the way" -  along your way, above your steps - wisdom is there.
  • At the "crossroads she takes her stand"  - where choices are made between two things, two ways: this or that, here or there - wisdom is there.
  • "Beside the gates" - where cultural decisions are made, in your leadership, in your influence - wisdom is there.
  • At the "entrance of the portals" - in your coming and going, when you are changing places, choosing the places you’ll go to - wisdom is there.

The steps we take, the decisions we make, the people we encounter, all need to be covered by His grace and wisdom, not by mere information.

We are overloaded with information coming at us in every direction and every media avenue. Information may "inform" you what you "should" be getting, what you should demand for, what you are entitled to, who you should vote for. But that information alone is not leading us to actually consider and think through the implications, how those things work themselves out, it does not think long term, does not look within ourselves but points out to say you can do all and be all with facts. Wisdom however sees through the "data" that disguises itself as power and wants to humble teach as we go about our way through life.

"There is a difference between healthy learning and information gluttony: one is about being fully human, and the other is about craving limitlessness...unmeasured consumption of information brings us not increased peace of mind, as we had hoped, but increased dissonance...information overload ... affects our cognition, and thereby our productivity, shortening our attention spans and diminishing our ability to concentrate...paralysis by analysis... God help us if the church succumbs to inaction and indifference in the face of human suffering." Jen Wilkin

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

I just finished another semester of seminary and already deep into the next and goodness do I feel those words, that often much study is weariness to the flesh when not applied and engaged to the heart for transformation of heart, mind and will.

Information says this should be your opinion and make sure everyone knows.
Wisdom leads you to think, consider, evaluate your opinion but also how you share that opinion with others.  
Information and data say "werk werk werk werk werk" (or maybe that's Rhianna), work more for more success.
Wisdom says rest and your work will be more fruitful. Rest from your work and striving, and then work out of an overflow of your rest.
Information says do more, learn more, be more - for your own personal success
Wisdom says, say no so you can say yes to what matters most, do less and give more to meaningful places -  for the sake of healthy relationships because people matter.
Information says the cross killed a man.
But wisdom says that which was meant to kill brought victory.

Proverbs says to seek out, take hold, do not let go of and guard the wisdom of God for it is life. What are some practical ways to lessen the information binge and sink deeply into truthful wisdom?

  • Choose a few wisely - choose less to listen to/read and dive into those well.

Years ago I found myself trying to read 4 books at once, listening to 6 podcast and reading every blog post I came across. I could not keep track of all I was listening to and reading nor my own thoughts. This also led me to live second handly through others. I wanted first-hand relationship with the Lord and to soak in well, little, rather than not really retain and engage from overload. When choosing ask such questions that Jen Wilkin’s poses:

Will the time and attention I give this made me more like Christ? Will it make me better able to serve God and serve others? Am I feeding my intellect in a way that enables me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, or in a way that causes information overload? Does what I'm learning cause me to worship myself, or cause me to marvel at "the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:16)?

  • Discuss with others - Share what you are listening to, reading, your thoughts, criticisms, spur each other on and challenge each other, challenge the norm, the values of culture.

  • Choose your Bible - it is not merely information but "alive and active' (Heb. 4:12). God's Words are identical to His actions. When He speaks He does. His words and actions are one in the same. Consider Psalm 119  to read King David’s love letter to the very Word of God - oh that we would value, cherish, and live by His words.

I need to be in the Word because with all that I know (or think I know) I need to be reminder of Who is actually all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present, in control and sovereign and stop thinking it's up to me to make all the things happen. Abiding in His pages are full of reminders that He is all these things and more. To quite trying muster up all of my own efforts, knowledge, experience and find true wisdom power and life in the One who wrote life itself.

For He “is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6), “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), “for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)!

When the garden of your life is planted in the soil of God's wisdom, you can't help but produce good fruit.