Who is that virtuous wife?

woman as wisdom

Wisdom portrayed as a woman

Proverbs 31 ends with a description of a virtuous wife. More than one Christian woman has confessed a love-hate relationship with that chapter. Men have their own frustrations with it.

Here is a caricature that captures the problem: this wonderful woman possesses every virtue. She effortlessly runs the household. And a prosperous business. Everyone respects her. Her husband adores her, but he spends all his time hanging around the city gate chattering with his buddies.

Many women look at her in frustration, because some of her stellar characteristics are completely absent from their lives. Many men look at her in frustration because their own wives fall so far short of that ideal.… Read the rest

What’s a faithful Christian community?

Holy wisdom

Holy wisdom icon (Yaroslavl) / Russian, 17th century

Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is the only one he wrote where he hadn’t founded the church.

The church was rife with heresy, and its leader Epaphras visited Paul in prison to get some guidance. Paul addressed the epistle not to the church at Colossae, but to the saints and faithful there.

Paul’s opening prayer for the Colossian saints, and I’m sure for all Christians anywhere, was that they would “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

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Wisdom: Solomon’s, God’s, and ours

Wisdom mural

Wisdom. Mural at the Library of Congress by Robert Lewis Reid

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” That’s the caption to a mural called “Wisdom” in the Thomas Jefferson Buliding of the Library of Congress.

Wisdom differs from intelligence or knowledge. The ordinary dictionary distinction is that wisdom involves sound judgment and the ability to apply learning and knowledge to the conduct of your affairs.

In the Bible, there are four different words translated wisdom. They refer to having skill, being prudent, being upright, and having understanding.

Solomon, known above all for his wisdom, ultimately failed.

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How Gideon failed at success

Gideon and the angel

The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon / James Tissot

Everyone wants to succeed at what they try. The alternative is failure. Successful people know failure. They have learned from it, worked out problems, and tried again until they succeed. That’s the way the world works. Unfortunately, the world also has pitfalls that can ultimately destroy the successful if they’re not vigilant. The Bible has many examples. Let’s look at Gideon.

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The folly of Solomon

Idolatry of Solomon / by Frans Francken II (1622)

Was Solomon wise? Huck Finn and Jim had a conversation on that very question, and Jim didn’t find any wisdom in him at all. The Bible says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:28-30, NIV).

But it also says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness”’ (1 Corinthians 3:19).… Read the rest

Lamps for our feet: gaining godly wisdom

Oil Lamp

Oil Lamp

Psalm 119:105 reminds us that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. Let’s not let the familiarity of that verse turn it into a cliché. What is a lamp for? To chase away darkness. Wherever it’s dark, we need a lamp, or maybe more than one, to see well. Perhaps we’re trying to find something, trying to see something, or just trying to avoid obstacles as we move.

No matter how many lamps we have, none will do us any goodin the dark until we turn one of them on. In Bible times, lamps were made of clay to contain oil.… Read the rest

Tough people in tough times: Paul’s thoughts in prison


Have you ever heard the slogan, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do”? There’s a lot of truth in that. Unfortunately, if tough times last more than a day or two, it begins to feel like they’ll last forever.

Tough times can mean all kinds of things. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a relationship gone sour, and other bad events can trigger them. So can more ordinary stresses like loneliness or trouble paying bills, or being unable to make the kinds of changes in our lives we want to make. Eventually, all of us will go through a variety of different bad times.… Read the rest

How to become wise


Want to be wise? Wisdom requires some knowledge, but think of wisdom, in part, as knowing what to do about knowledge. The book of Proverbs often personifies wisdom as a female character, sent by God to accomplish God’s purposes. It often presents wisdom as advice from parents to children (Proverbs 2:1-5). Wisdom consists of both moral instruction on how to live a righteous life and practical advice that covers a wide variety of situations. No one is born with wisdom, and no one becomes wise without effort.

Seeking wisdom

Read the scripture, emphasizing the “if” written or implied before every verb.… Read the rest

The wisdom and folly of Solomon

People find it easier to start well than to end well. Nowadays, we see it in the tremendous number of anointed ministers of the gospel who fall into some kind of gross sin. (Failures of lay Christians get less press but provide similar evidence.) In the Bible, we see it in the lives of all of the ancient kings that God declared good.

Early in his reign, Solomon delighted God one evening. He asked God for a discerning heart to be able to judge rightly and thus fulfill his kingly duties. Because it is impossible to please God without faith, we know Solomon asked in faith for such wisdom.… Read the rest

Proverbs: the lamps of wisdom

The book of Proverbs is like a set of lamps. The purpose of a lamp is to chase away darkness. Without the light from a lamp, we cannot see well. In particular, without light in an unfamiliar place, we cannot see to avoid obstacles. Many times, we need to turn on more than one lamp in order to do whatever it is we need to do. The lamps of Proverbs illuminate numerous dark corners. If we’re having trouble with anxiety, we need the lamp of trust. If we’re having trouble with frustration, we need the lamp of patience. If we’re having trouble with greed, we need the lamp of prudence.… Read the rest