Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of Biochemistry at Boston University. Authoring or editing over 500 books, he observed, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” On another occasion he wrote, “Even as a youngster . . . I could not bring myself to believe that if knowledge presented danger, the solution was ignorance. To me, it always seemed that the solution had to be wisdom. You did not refuse to look at danger, rather you learned how to handle it safely.”
What Asimov observed, we have lived. Who among us hasn’t seen the pain brought by thoughtlessly speaking the truth without humility, love, or wisdom? Who can estimate the costs of living in an age of science and technology without wisdom?
It seems noteworthy, therefore, that an institution, as prestigious as The University of Chicago, has initiated what it calls the Wisdom Research Project. An introduction of the effort explains, “Wisdom was once regarded as a subject worthy of rigorous scholarly inquiry in order to understand its nature and benefits; however until recently wisdom has been relatively overlooked as a topic for serious scholarly and scientific investigation. It is difficult to imagine a subject more central to the highest aspirations of being human.”
In this lofty tribute to an ancient virtue, readers of the Bible might hear echoes of Solomon. “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (prov. 3:13-15 nkjv).
In our day, Solomon is synonymous not only with wisdom . . . but also with reckless self-absorption. Yet we do not dismiss his pursuit of wisdom, the first love of his life, as foolishness. Rather we long for the wisdom to end better than we have begun, to leave our world better than we found it, and to bring a smile to the face of others in the process.
Wisdom offers joy and satisfaction. According to the Bible, it was in wisdom that our Creator made the world, and then sacrificed Himself to rescue it from the mess of our foolishness.
Such thoughts have given us a deep appreciation for the insights of Alice Mathews on last chapter of the Bible’s most well-known book of wisdom. As we listen to her, we find fresh insight in the lauded and loathed “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31. As Alice will explain in the pages that follow, this section of Scripture has been misunderstood, undervalued, and overlooked in what it contributes to our overall understanding of wisdom.
By the time Alice is done, we may also understand why Solomon wasn’t the one to write the last chapter on wisdom. It is probably for good reason that this description was not written by a king who gave wisdom a bad name by collecting 700 wives and 300 concubines. As Alice shows, the wisdom of King Lemuel, by contrast, describes Lady Wisdom in a way that will ennoble the life of any man or woman who honors her.
Alice does more than renew the vision of our need for wisdom. She gives us reason to remember that the wise sayings Solomon collected and spoke are neither a beginning nor an end in themselves.
In a day when secular academia is remembering the lost art and treasure of wisdom, what could be more important than to rediscover wisdom’s true source and how the book God inspired takes us beyond knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
Our Daily Bread Ministries