The Wise Recognize Their Ignorance

The Wise Recognize their Ignorance

Proverbs 20:1-9

“Surely I am more stupid than any man… Every word of God is tested.”


            Wisdom does not start with knowledge; wisdom begins with recognizing our ignorance.  At first, it seems that Agur contradicts the search for wisdom that has permeated the book.  Throughout the book, wisdom calls out for people to come and find her and gain knowledge and understanding of life.  However, for the writer, this starts by confessing his lack of wisdom and understanding.  This is not false humility nor a depressing confession of his inability to gain any insight.  The issue is not how little he knows; the problem is the standard by which he compares his knowledge.  The standard he uses to evaluate his understanding is God himself.  Rather than comparing himself to others, he looks at God, and in relationship to God’s wisdom, he knows nothing.  In his words, he echoes Job’s confession.  After Job is confronted with God's infinite power and knowledge, he confesses, “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3-6).  This is the starting point of true wisdom.  We start the journey of learning when we come to grips with our ignorance and folly.  Too often, we turn inward to our knowledge to determine truth, but this is self-deceiving.  In our ignorance, we gain a false sense of pride.  Consequently, Agur challenges us to acknowledge our folly; we do not understand the world and the moral foundation that governs the universe.  No one is wise and able to explain the hidden moral laws governing the universe. 

            However, Agur does not leave us to flounder in our ignorance.  Instead, he points us to the answer.  Wisdom is not found by looking inward but by looking upward.  We start the journey towards understanding when we realize that actual knowledge is found in God and his word.  While man proves his folly in his claims, God’s words are tested and proven genuine.  To change God’s word or add to his word through the claims of human wisdom is the ultimate folly of man (see also Deut. 12:32 and Rev. 22:18).  To try and usurp God’s word and his moral law is the ultimate proof that one is a fool.

            How do we gain wisdom?  The answer lies in looking to God.  Since he is the source of knowledge, he protects us from lies and self-deception.  Thus he asks God to protect him from moral falsehood.  The writer recognizes his weakness; when life is easy, he can forget God, or when life becomes difficult, he can abandon God (vs. 8-9).  We continually face the challenge of trusting God and seeking his wisdom in all life circumstances.  Genuine understanding is found only in God.

            We live in a culture that is turning inward in its search for moral wisdom.  Morality is defined by what we determine to be true.  Consequently, we redefine who we are and what morality is.  But such redefinition is ultimately self-deceiving.  Instead of conforming to God’s word for our morals, we turn to man's wisdom.  This starts by acknowledging that sin has corrupted our moral compass. As a result, we are increasingly becoming more ignorant and foolish about God’s moral law.  We must humbly accept our lack of knowledge and surrender to God’s word.  Only by recognizing our folly can we truly become wise.  


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