Proverbs’ 7 Pillars of Wisdom, Part 3: The Spirit of Wisdom

24 May 2021

2.8 MINS

In this series, we are considering the seven pillars of wisdom mentioned in Proverbs 9:1, which I contend are prudence, discernment, knowledge, discretion, judgment, understanding and counsel.

Pillar Four: Discretion

Psalm 112:5 tells us that a good man “will guide his affairs with discretion”. Proverbs 3:21 enjoins us to “keep sound wisdom and discretion”.

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines discretion as “individual choice or judgment,” and the “power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds”.

Discretion is about wise judgment — but in particular, it means having the liberty to act without the control of someone else’s judgment. It is about being sober-minded, and acting with the wisdom and judgment that God has given us.

Pillar Five: Judgment

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines judgment as:

The act of judging; the act or process of the mind in comparing its ideas,
to find their agreement or disagreement, and to ascertain truth;
or the process of examining facts and arguments, to ascertain propriety and justice;
or the process of examining the relations between one proposition and another.

In Scripture, judgment includes the spirit of wisdom and prudence, enabling a person to discern right from wrong, and good from evil. Ultimately, the person who enacts perfect judgment will be God, when He judges the whole world. This is the declaration of Ecclesiastes 12:14:

For God will bring every work into judgment,
including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

But God’s judgment is not relegated only to the end of time. Biblically, judgment means the spiritual government of this temporal world. “Give the king Your judgments, O God,” pleads Solomon in Psalm 72:1. Likewise, in John 5:22, we read that “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.

Pillar Six: Understanding

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines understanding as “the faculty of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate.”

Understanding also includes intelligence between two or more people; and agreement of minds; a union of sentiments.

In Catholicism and Anglicanism, understanding is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul’s prayer is that:

“the eyes of your understanding [are] enlightened;
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.”

Pillar Seven: Counsel

Counsel means advice given by a professional regarding the judgment or conduct of another, or advice, opinion or instruction, given on request or not.

Proverbs 20:18 declares that “plans are established by counsel”. There is likewise a warning in Proverbs 12:15 that “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise”; and yet another in Proverbs 11:14, that “where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

In concluding this survey of the seven pillars of wisdom, let us turn to Isaiah 11:2, which describes the manifold wisdom of Jesus:

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him —
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord

In Jesus is found all of the wisdom we need. When our lives are filled with His wisdom, wellbeing follows. As Proverbs 9:11 declares,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.

And remember there are two kinds of Wisdom:

Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let them show it by their good life,
by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you harbour 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, 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.
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

~ James 3:13-18

[Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash]

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