Where Wisdom Begins

Strong, godly leadership requires many virtues: patience, vision, humility, perseverance, and many more. Try as we might, we never get to the top of the mountain on any of these virtues. Yet, good leaders never stop pursuing them. If God allowed me to choose a virtue He would grant me, I would choose wisdom. Wisdom is essentially insight that allows one to make right choices.

If one decides to pursue wisdom, one does well to realize that wisdom comes from God, and it also comes from the humility God’s presence provides. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” After 35 years of following the Lord and 15 years of ministry, the truth of this verse has been proven to me over and over again. Both embracing things that bring abundance to life and ministry and rejecting foolish or sinful things require an awareness of God’s true presence. God’s true presence frames all of life with reverence and awe–even fear of the Lord that puts us on a course to wisdom.

Some ignore verses like Proverbs 1:7 or reinterpret “fear of the LORD” to mean something like “a sense of respect.” That’s too soft a translation. It’s also more likely to lead to today’s pseudo-wisdom that is more an alloy of self-realization and the pursuit of godliness than true godliness, which recognizes God’s superiority in all things and what His existence and presence demands of us. This sense of transcendence makes even more powerful and true His immanence. However, it’s my belief that a sense of His transcendence is a prerequisite for experiencing the true power of His immanence evident in Christ and the Holy Spirit.

As a leader then, the reality of who God is:

  • Reminds me it’s His world and I’m just living in it.
  • Reminds me it’s Church and I’m just serving in it.
  • Reminds me it’s His Gospel and I’m just preaching it.
  • Reminds me it’s His Call and I’m just obeying it.
This sort of framework leads to wisdom in ministry. But, Proverbs 1:7 also impacts me as a Christian. The reality of who God is:
  • Leads me to repentance before His holiness.
  • Helps me experience the Gospel’s power before trying to communicate it to others.
  • Causes me to put He and His Cause before anything else. So, I give time, talent and treasure toward the advance of His Kingdom first.
  • Leads me to treat my wife and children the way the God I revere would want me to.
  • Guides my speech in reverence for God.
  • Causes me to stand in awe that the God of the Bible knows my name, numbers the hairs on my head and wants me to spend eternity with Him.
It all begins with the fear of the Lord.
What is true for everyone is especially true for leaders. If you want to be a fool of a leader like Manasseh, lose your fear of the Lord. If you want to be a great and wise leader like Josiah, it begins with the fear of the Lord.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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3 thoughts on “Where Wisdom Begins

  1. Interesting article that raises several questions for me.
    1. What is this “wisdom” that begins only with God? If there isn’t really any good way to define it, can you give some examples of this wisdom “in action” so to speak, and explain how it would differ from “wisdom” not from God?

    2. This is more of a sources question; I’m curious what your basis is for saying that Proverbs 1:7 should be interpreted as talking about actual fear of God instead of a sense of respect for him, which is what I had always been taught growing up.

    and 3. Why should we have to fear (using your interpretation) an eternally loving God? I believe that God should not have to be feared like some kind of tyrant, and that love for him is supposed to be the cause of the things in your second little list, not being afraid of his power.

    If my understanding of your interpretation of “fear the Lord” is misguided, please correct me.

    • Good questions. Here’s my attempt at concise answers:
      1. The bible sketches out the content of that wisdom over it’s pages. The Bible says all wisdom comes from God, thus, wisdom’s content consists of God’s revelation–through His Word both written (Bible), Incarnate (Christ), and through the guidance of His Spirit.
      2. Respect is too soft of a translation given our English usage of it. If it conveyed the meaning, translators would have translated it that way. Fear is a much more accurate translation…and doesn’t necessitate “tyrant.” Though, even then… wouldn’t God have the right and ability to be God without worrying about Western definitions of what is tyrannical and what’s not?
      3. We are the ones who say that we shouldn’t or can’t fear and love simultaneously–and that God can’t do so either. The stories of the Bible recount God’s acts of wrath, and that aspect of his character is something Christians have struggled with since Marcion. However, true Christian teaching would say that our definitions of “fear” and “love” should be shaped more by who God is than what Shakespeare said, for instance. I don’t know what the “little lists” are that you’re referring to. I guess the bullet lists? The motivation for what’s in those lists is both the fear of the Lord and love of the Lord.