Wisdom is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her. – Proverbs 3:18
Are you overly wise? Some may wonder if that is even possible. The book of Proverbs tells us that wisdom is good and a tree of life. However, Ecclesiastes 7:16 states, “Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise; why should you destroy yourself?” Although wisdom is a virtuous quality that should be desired, Scripture warns us that being overly wise can lead to destruction. The purpose of the book of Ecclesiastes is to explain to us that extreme zeal in any area of life is futile (destined to perish). Likewise, attempting to justify one’s existence by zealously acquiring wisdom is futile. Though I highly value wisdom, I have found that the improper use of wisdom can be a detriment to one’s ministry. Thus, one should seek after godly wisdom while refraining from becoming overly wise.
So, what does it mean to be overly wise?
To be overly wise is to be unbalanced. I have found that pursuing wisdom can be intellectually frustrating at times. Obtaining wisdom is like drawing water from an infinite ocean. The more knowledge I seem to gain, the more I seem to lack. Ecclesiastes 1:17-18 states, “And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Due to the vastness of the waters of wisdom, one must ensure that they maintain boundaries in life to avoid becoming obsessed with the pursuit of wisdom. Every question answered leads to three more questions unanswered. If left unchecked, the search for knowledge could consume you. Time must be limited in pursuing wisdom to ensure that one does not miss out on life. I have been told by my wife numerous times to put down my book or get off the internet. Though it seems counterintuitive, it is wise to take breaks from learning and spend time enjoying life with loved ones. Without balance and restraint in one’s life, the pursuit of wisdom could lead to depression, resentment, or even madness. Wisdom should be encouraging not discouraging. Therefore, godly wisdom is balanced.
To be overly wise is to be full of pride. Proverbs 3:7 states, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.” Many pastors and church leaders who are well-educated have allowed wisdom to be an excuse for pride and manipulation. The Bible warns us that knowledge puffs up and understanding can give way to pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). By doing so, one neglects the wisdom they so openly proclaim. Instead, those with wisdom should share their wisdom to serve and edify others. An individual continuing to gain knowledge without ever utilizing or applying it would be like a woman being pregnant and never giving birth. It is vital that we desire and use our wisdom for good and not selfishness. Therefore, godly wisdom should flow from love and humility.
To be overly wise is to place wisdom before God. Wisdom should never be placed as our ultimate goal in life. To seek wisdom by itself misses the purpose of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” One cannot genuinely obtain wisdom if they are not pursuing God. Wisdom begins and ends with God. We must ensure that as we grow in knowledge that we are also growing in our love and devotion for Him. Wisdom is a tool given to us by God to draw closer to Him. When wisdom is placed in its proper place, God will graciously give us more (James 1:5). Therefore, godly wisdom is given to us so that we can experience God.
As we pursue godly wisdom, let us remember to do so with balance, love, humility, and ultimately allow it to serve as a guide to lead us into a deeper relationship with Christ. Do not be overly wise – but be wise.