By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Pursuing wisdom is important, but it can sometimes seem overwhelming. A myriad of information comes at us every day, and we have to figure out what’s worth paying attention to and what’s not. So much sparks our interest to learn more, but we have limited time and energy. Thankfully, God is always willing to guide us as we look for wisdom. The Bible mentions seven pillars of wisdom in Proverbs 9:1 and James 3:17. Here’s a look at what those seven pillars of wisdom are, and how we can apply them to our lives.
What Are the Seven Pillars of Wisdom?
Proverbs 9:1 personifies wisdom as a woman building a house with seven pillars: “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.” Later on in Proverbs 9, verse 10 tells us what the foundation of wisdom’s house is: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This verse refers to being in awe of God rather than being afraid of God. In our quest for wisdom, we need to start with awe – a sense of reverence for God’s wondrous power. My book Wake Up to Wonder describes how to wake up to God’s work around us and experience awe as a result. It presents research studies that show how awe can change our perspective on any situation. When we start with awe on our journey to wisdom, we have the advantage of a clear perspective that’s focused on what God is doing. That is the best position to be in to discover wisdom!
We can build wisdom up from that foundation by developing the seven pillars of wisdom. The Bible describes those pillars in another book: the Book of James, which focuses on wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” James 1:5 advises us. James 3:17 describes the seven pillars of wisdom that God gives generously to those who ask him: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” In the Bible, the number seven often symbolizes fullness and completion, so these seven pillars may be taken together as a full, complete picture of what wisdom looks like in action.
What Is the Meaning of the “Seven Pillars”?
Let’s explore the meaning of each of these seven pillars of wisdom:
1. Pure: Purity involves making holiness a top priority in our lives.
2. Peace-loving: Loving peace means focusing on getting along well with other people in relationships.
3. Considerate: Being considerate means being respectful and gentle with the words and actions we choose.
4. Submissive: Submissiveness means being humble and sensible.
5. Full of Mercy and Good Fruit: Being full of mercy and good fruit means being kind and taking action in compassion, so that good happens in the world because of us.
6. Impartial: Impartiality involves being unwavering in our commitment to faithfulness. It means choosing to follow where God leads us, no matter what else competes for our attention. It also includes being fair and just.
7. Sincere: Sincerity means caring about the truth, living with integrity, and being genuine.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ben White
How Do We Apply These Seven Pillars of Wisdom to Our Lives?
There are many practical ways we can apply the seven pillars of wisdom to our lives. Here are the key ways to build a house of wisdom in our lives, using these pillars:
1. Pure: We can pursue purity by asking the Holy Spirit to renew our minds day by day, so we can learn to think in pure ways that lead us closer to God. Then we can intentionally choose purity, as our thoughts lead to our words and actions. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Purity involves aligning our hearts with what matters most to God. When we ask, the Holy Spirit will help us focus on what pleases God and helps us (holy choices) and avoid what displeases God and harms us (sinful choices). We can rely on the Spirit’s help for the self-control we need to live pure lives. The Spirit will lead us away from the temptation to sin and toward what is holy.
2. Peace-loving: Loving peace involves being friendly and looking for ways to resolve conflicts with mutual respect and love. When we pursue peace, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us follow the advice in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” By welcoming God’s love to flow through our lives to other people, we can learn to love peace. That will empower us to work for peace even in the most stressful, challenging situations. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says we’re blessed when we make peace happen in our world: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
3. Considerate: When we show consideration, we’re gentle with people because we respect them. We keep in mind that we’re all a valuable part of the same human family that God has created. We’re careful not to intentionally hurt or harm others. We try to be fair and equitable. We make time to listen to others’ thoughts and feelings, and we keep their welfare in mind when making decisions. Incorporating consideration into our lives also means keeping our emotions under control so we can respond wisely rather than react unwisely when we’re stressed. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:5. Meekness involves being considerate. While some may view meekness as weakness, Jesus affirms that it is actually spiritual strength in action.
4. Submissive: Being submissive involves living with humility and a sensible attitude. When we’re submissive, we submit our own will to God’s will – and as a result, we gain a wise perspective of who we are. We can see that we are deeply loved by God, yet are equally as valuable as other souls. We can understand how much we need God to help us day by day. We’re reasonable and teachable, eager to keep learning more from Jesus as we walk through life with him. The Book of James, which lists the seven pillars of wisdom, points out, “…‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…” (James 4:6-8).
5. Full of Mercy and Good Fruit: Being full of mercy and good fruit involves having goodwill toward others, and letting that goodwill motivate us to do good deeds in the world. As we’re moved by mercy – both the mercy God has shown us, and God’s call for us to be merciful with others – we act with compassion and see good results happen from our compassionate work. God’s love flows through us when we exhibit grace and mercy to others. We can be good to others because God is good to us, empowering us to do so. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” Jesus declares in Matthew 5:7.
6. Impartial: We can be impartial by committing ourselves to obey God’s guidance every day, even when we’re tempted to make other choices. Romans 2:11 tells us: “For there is no partiality with God.” By regularly reading scripture and asking the Holy Spirit to renew our minds, we can discover what matters most to God, and align our lives with God’s priorities. As we make decisions, we can ask ourselves what the most faithful, fair, and just choice would be in each situation – and then trust God to help us as we say “yes” to his leading and take action.
7. Sincere: Making sincerity an integral part of our lives involves living with integrity. We can be honest with God, ourselves, and other people. We can wisely evaluate every situation in light of the truth God reveals to us, and act according to what we know to be true. When we encounter lying or misinformation, we can help bring the truth to light. Incorporating sincerity into our lives also means being authentic and genuine rather than trying to project an image that doesn’t reflect who we actually are. As we do so, we can be confident that God loves us completely, no matter what. Wisdom comes full circle in this last pillar. The Good News Translation of Psalm 51:6 points out that God calls us to be sincere and truthful, and that those qualities are connected to wisdom: “Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom.”
We can all build a strong and beautiful house of wisdom in our lives by developing these seven pillars of wisdom the Bible describes. Each of the pillars helps support us as we construct more wisdom day by day. Our developing wisdom can inspire us with awe that motivates us to keep learning and growing with God!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/arsenisspyros
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter.