How to Listen to Wisdom, Part 1

“Joe in His Ear Protectors” by Fimb (2009), shared under Creative Commons Attribution License

The first step to becoming wise is to listen to wisdom.

1My son, if you receive my words
And treasure up my commandments with you,
2Making your ear attentive to wisdom
And inclining your heart to understanding (Prov 2:1-2, ESV)

Solomon begins the chapter with a big “IF.”  Receiving, treasuring, attending, inclining, calling out, raising your voice, seeking, and searching all boil down to one weighty concept: listening.  He already commanded us to “hear” in Prov 1:8.  He regretted our refusal to “listen” in Prov 1:24.  He’ll come back to the topic of listening again in Prov 3:1, 21; 4:1, 10, 20; 5:1; 7:24; 8:6, and Prov 8:32.  Listening is no small theme in Proverbs 1-9.

What does it mean to listen to wisdom?  He breaks it down into two pieces: passive receiving and active seeking.  We’ll cover the first piece today and the second piece tomorrow.

First, he commands us to listen passively in Prov 2:1-2.  There are many times when we don’t ask for advice, but it comes anyway.  It might come in a form we like: a powerful sermon, a gentle rebuke, or a kind reminder.  It might come in a form we don’t like: an angry critic, a disconsolate child, or a disgruntled coworker.  Whatever shape wisdom takes, the question remains the same: Will you receive it?  We’re like desperately hungry babies, and the food is placed right in our mouths.  Will we munch on it or spit it out?

In other words, we ought to pay attention to the Bible and delight in it.  We must be receptive to what wise people say – or even to wise things foolish people say – and avoid shifting blame or making excuses.  In reading God’s Word or in having it explained to us, we should be broken and changed by it.  Are you approachable?  How do you handle criticism?  Are you willing to address weakness or failure?  Do you have the courageous humility to focus more on how you need to grow than on how others need to grow?  A mark of the wise Christian is the constant watching out for logs in or around his eye (Matt 7:1-5).