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Updated: Nov 19, 2020


Read: 1 Kings 3:5-10

“Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:9. God asked Solomon what gift he would like to possess. As we read this passage we hear Solomon ask God for an understanding heart, or mind, in order that he might discern what is best for the people of God. In a word, he asked for wisdom.

How would you define wisdom?

Someone asked that question to a group of 10 year old children. One defined wisdom as “being smarter than anybody else.”

Another said that wisdom was something only “grandparents and old people have.”

Still another said that wisdom was “knowing enough not to do stupid stuff.”

And another called it “a little voice inside your head that tells you what to do when nobody else knows what to do.”

Those are some very good answers or descriptions of wisdom. Is that how you understand wisdom? Is it knowing more than anybody else? Is it the ability to avoid “stupid stuff? Coming from a 10 year old mind, those descriptions may suffice. But, it is actually something more than that.

King Solomon, who was widely known in his day to be a wise man, gives us a clue about the real meaning of wisdom. In the third chapter of 1 Kings we are told the account of how God appeared to Solomon in a dream after Solomon had inherited the throne of his father, David. God asked him, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

Now, just “imaginate” for a minute. God makes that offer to you. I’m sure we would all also say “give me wisdom, right? No, probably not. We would more likely ask for something of a material nature that we believe would enhance our well-being. , “A million dollars!” or “A new car” or a dozen other “things” which would eventually slip through our fingers, break down, or be used up over time. But not Solomon. He said, “Give me an understanding heart (mind) so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).

Solomon’s words show that a major part of wisdom is the ability to “know the difference between right and wrong.” We may be well educated. We may be the top performer at your place of work. We may be Dad or Mom of the year. Now, in reality, you don’t have to be wise to win those accolades.

But if you want to be wise, you will seek, as Solomon did, “an understanding mind (heart) so that you can know the difference between right and wrong.” Solomon needed that gift, because as a judge over the people, he needed to have the ability to discern right from wrong, to discern good and evil. He understood that without that wisdom neither he, nor no one else would be capable of judging the great people of God.

No matter what else you may know, if you don’t know right from wrong, you’re not wise.

Based on Solomon’s words in 1 Kings 3:9, from where (or from whom) does true wisdom come? Does a person have to be old to be wise? Does a person have to be well educated to be wise? How does a person become wise? How can you increase in wisdom?

Solomon was a man full of wisdom. He wrote most of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, which rightly can be called a Book of Wisdom. The New Testament contains a book of wisdom as well. That is the short letter from James. In that writing, James tells us: “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” In plain language, he is saying “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you” (James 1:5). God is not shy about giving us what we need when we ask it, knowing He will only give to us what is good for us.

Frequently, we need to spend time in prayer, asking God for wisdom in specific areas of our lives. We can even use Solomon’s words if needed. “Give me an understanding mind so that I can know the difference between right and wrong.”

Gary K. Fair

17 November 2020

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