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7 Habits of the Wise

In the previous post, we looked at 7 Habits of a Fool. It’s easy to pick on fools because they’re so blatantly…well, foolish! But not playing the fool doesn’t necessarily prove that you’re wise either. In fact, Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise…” So how do you know if you’re a truly wise or just a silent fool?

For that answer, we go to Scripture. The Bible consistently provides a measuring rod of truth that you can use to test if your faith is genuine, and certainly to test if your wisdom is genuine.

Grab your Bible again, turn to Proverbs, and let’s see how we measure up to the 7 Habits of the Wise.

  1. The Wise Can Discern What Wisdom Is (1:5-6; 4:5-7; 13:10; 13:20; 16:21-22; 17:24; 19:8; 19:20; 20:18; 21:11; 24:6)

A ministry mentor once told me, “Hear many, listen to few.” Getting perspective from others is a humble way to learn and can be very helpful, but when it finally comes to decision time, only your most trusted advisors should have a voice. There’s nothing worse for a family, a business, or a church, then when leaders who do not make well-informed decisions. This is why thing like the “podcast pastor” epidemic is so dangerous. Technology can be a blessing to our spiritual growth, but when we need wisdom to make the right decision, we need to be careful turning on our podcast pastor or only ever googling what John MacArthur thinks (guilty of this!) and go to our actual pastor who knows us, loves us, and can provide well-informed wisdom. Podcasts and faithful Bible teachers can be a huge blessing, but our local church must have a voice in our life. At our church, we tell people all the time, if you can’t trust us as church leaders, we’ll help you find a church where you can. Nobody should be left as an orphan in the body of Christ and every sheep should know their shepherd. In life, we’ll hear a lot of voices, but only the wise can discern which one is true wisdom for their personal decision.

  1. The Wise Work Hard For The Right Things (11:4; 11:24; 12:11; 13:11; 16:8; 16:16-17 ;20:13; 22:1; 23:1-5)

You’re not going to find a wise person trying to get rich quick because they’ll be too busy working hard for their increase. Wise people who happen to be wealthy know they’re blessed to be a blessing and they keep wealth in the right perspective. Wise people who aren’t wealthy live within their means, and trust the Lord with what they’ve been given. God has and always will honor those who work hard, remain faithful, and live generously no matter what their salary is. On a recent Sunday, our Sunday School taught the kids about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. One little boy asked the teacher, “Why is the rich man in Hades and the poor man is with Abraham? If he was rich, he must have a good life and should be with poor man in heaven!” The teacher explained that the rich man used his riches for all the wrong things. The Bible doesn’t speak against having a nice house or making a good honest wage, but it does make it clear that the wise work harder at building God’s kingdom, than their own castle.

  1. The Wise Lose the Argument Before Ever Losing Their Temper (12:18; 16:32; 17:14; 17:27; 19:11; 29:9; 29:11; 29:8)

Wise people know that no resolution can be found once tempers have been lost. Proverbs repeatedly offers wisdom to those who struggle with anger, and affirms those who consistently avoid a war of words – or worse. Notice that nowhere in these verses does it say conflict won’t happen. That’s because conflict in life is inevitable. The wise know how to handle their emotions, and practice keeping their tongue under control. So what’s it going to be when a quarrel breaks out? Fight or flight?

  1. The Wise Bring Joy to Family, Friends, and Even Foes (13:1; 14:26; 15:20; 16:7; 23:15; 23:24-25; 27:11; 29:2-3)

Wise people don’t frustrate others because of their foolish decisions! Parents, is there anything better than seeing your kids living for Christ, making the right choice even when it’s hard, marrying the right person, or honoring their commitments? Think about bosses who lead organization ethically and treat employees with fairness, dependable dad’s who work hard, love their wives, and consistently provide a good example to their kids. One more: church leaders who plan ahead, budget properly, spend only what God provides, and stand their ground on biblical truth rather than people pleasing. Even people who may not like you will respect you when they know clearly where you stand. The wise say what they mean, mean what they say, and what you see is what you get.

  1. The Wise Plan Ahead (6:6-8; 21:5; 24:21-22; 24:27; 27:23-27; )

In 2011 I ran the San Francisco marathon without any training to prove to my sister how “naturally” fit I was. I did it in 4 1/2 hours and have the medal to prove it. I also have the hotel receipt for the additional $300 I had to pay to stay in a local hotel for 2 extra days because I couldn’t walk afterwards. Humble pie was served for dessert that night. There’s a reason why people train for 6 months and plan ahead for marathons. If being a prudent planner was easy to do, everybody would be considered wise. Planning ahead is easy to think about but takes incredible discipline and practice to do. The disappointing thing about being a poor planner is that there’s rarely a good excuse. Churches in Illinois know they’re in Tornado Alley so they build a certain way, Alaskan fisherman know the weather so they dress a certain way, and people know April 15th is when the Tax-Man says pay! The wise don’t assume everything will just work itself out. Lastly, wise people are usually in control of their emotions so they are able to stay balanced and objective even when things do not go according to plan. They simply go back to the drawing board, learn from their mistakes, and trust the Lord.

  1. The Wise Avoid Debt and/or Pay Off Debt (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27)

Speaking of planning ahead, the wise know it’s good practice to pay their credit card off every 30 days or to avoid debt alltogether. In a day in age where school is required and not everyone can afford it, let’s leave the debate about student loans off the table for now (let’s leave it at – if you find yourself in student debt, look into getting a student loan calculator to help you pay it off without breaking the bank) and agree that in the very least, credit card spending with money we don’t actually have and balances we can’t actually pay off is living dangerously. Of course, if you currently do not have any credit, this is not a problem that should concern you too much. However, this is not to say that you cannot reap the benefits that credit cards have to offer. Some lenders still offer credit cards no credit for people that have had no experience with credit before. Proverbs tells us to not make pledges we can’t pay, and if we have, then to run like a Gazelle (that’s really fast!) to pay it off. Is it time for you to get a side job for a few months or to stop spending what you don’t have? If we’re wise, we’ll take Solomon seriously on this one.

  1. The Wise Man Finds an Excellent Wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:13-15; Chapter 31)

A wise man who marries a wise woman for the right reasons has “power couple”written all over it. God honors men and women who work hard, live faithfully, listen carefully, and keep their eyes on the right things. If you have sons, teach them to marry the woman in chapter 31 and steer clear of a contentious woman no matter how dolled up she looks on Instagram. 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”If you have daughters, teach them to stay away from fools until a wise man comes.

We’ve all played the fool at one time or another. If you think it’s too late for your kids, yourself, or someone else you love, be encouraged. God’s word is the best solution.

Pray for growth, and open up a chapter a day in the Proverbs – there’s thirty-one.

Private Lives Define Public Leaders

It was the great Puritan John Owen who said, “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”

What John Owen had right almost 400 years ago still rings true today. Christian leadership is a public service that begins with private worship. While every leader has unique, God-ordained passions and purposes, there is one common denominator that defines every leader in the same way: Who they are behind closed doors.

Who a leader is outside of the public eye is who they really are – no more, no less.

No matter how hard a leader may try, they can’t fake their private life. In fact, it can even be argued that there is no such thing as a private life at all, only a variety of environments in which a leader operates. God sees everything, a spouse knows them better than anyone next to God, and kids are quick to catch on when parents behave one way in public and another way at home. There’s no getting around the fact that who a leader is in their private life is where the rubber meets the road. A healthy private life means a healthy leader.

Many underestimate the powerful role that a leader’s private life plays in determining the success of their leadership. To take that even further, it’s safe to say that there is no real success in ministry unless the private life of a leader is healthy.

Truth and time go hand-in-hand so what will eventually begin to manifest in public is just the evidence of who a leader is in private.

Here are three private areas that will define a Christian leader, for better or worse:

  1. A Leader’s Private Devotion

A leader may pray eloquent prayers in public, and be able to rattle off quotes from Charles Spurgeon, but true spiritual leadership is ultimately defined by the private devotion that takes place when no one is around to “oooh” and “awe” at their spirituality. A leader’s job may be thriving, their friends may envy their oratorical abilities, and many people may even be swept up by their charisma – but all of that can be an empty shell if private devotion to Christ is not their highest priority. Know this, a leader will not stand the test of time who does not spend ample time on their knees and time in God’s word. Knowing the latest LifeWay research statistics and being articulate on topics like church-trends and growth strategies will prove useless if a leader is not proficient in prayer and the Scriptures. Christian leaders are not called to be experts on culture. They are called to be emulators of Christ.

  1. A Leader’s Private Marriage

Every Christian leader is happily married on Sunday morning. Men talk openly about being the head of the home and flex their spiritual muscles with Bible in hand. Women pick out the perfect outfit and smile with glee; reminiscent of a woman who had a flawless week “respecting hubby.” Her Instagram posts are confirmation of that. It’s the picture of public perfection! But is that always the real story? The way a leader’s “first ministry” operates throughout the week will define who they really are – not merely a Sunday (or social media) show. While a leader’s marriage should be progressing and growing in Christ – which will result in a good example publicly – faking perfection when things are falling apart is dangerous because it lacks the diligence God instructs Christian couples to have when it comes to working on their marriage. If a leader will not take the steps needed in order to nurture their marriage, they are no leader at all. A leader’s marriage must be marked by a deep sacrifice of self, a calendar with dates that match biblical convictions, honesty about weakness, confession of sin, and involvement of qualified church leaders or counseling when needed. A leader’s marriage may look good on the outside (and maybe it really is doing well), but how we live Ephesians 5:22-33 behind closed doors is what truly matters.

  1. A Leader’s Private Conversations

Leaders are constantly communicating both privately and publicly. This means that a lot of words come out that can’t be taken back. Prudence is crucial for every private conversation and taming the tongue is especially necessary in familiar environments where leaders are most comfortable. A leader who “lets it fly” is a disaster waiting to happen. Many leaders use crude language in the name of authenticity but are doing nothing more than creating a locker-room mentality within the church. Furthermore, many leaders use manipulative language with staff members for their own gain. This could be sexual, or it could be production driven – pitting them against each other to spark competition in the name of ministry advancement. This is not becoming of a true Christian leader, though it is how many churches run the business-side of church. Since when did Jesus promise to build His church through leadership styles reminiscent of corporate sharks and verbally aggressive CEO’s? When it comes to frustrations, a wise leader does not shame others. He replaces “venting” publicly (aka: gossip), with “vetting” (aka: prayer) privately with Jesus. Taking every attitude, thought, or frustration to Christ in prayer is the best way for a leader to control the tongue in conversations. Sometimes it’s best to just use the abbreviation: FHL. It means, “Few, honest, and loving”, and refers to the words we ought to use if we’re experiencing some tension in our day-to-day life. Ministry is tough and temptation is everywhere, but leaders have to learn to manage their mouth behind the scenes.

There are numerous more that could be added to this list but all will point to the same truth. A leader’s private life is make or break for their public leadership.

Sound like a tough task? It is. That’s why a leader must depend on God’s grace to be at work within their life above all else. It is a responsibility that should cause every pastor, elder, small group leader, deacon, teacher, parent, layman, or aspiring leader to remain humbly on their knees before God – begging that His power be at work in their prayer life, their marriage, and their mouth.


Verses for further study & reflection:

Devotion: Psalm 1; Ephesians 6:10-20; Colossians 2:6-8

Marriage: Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-25; 1 Peter 3:1-8;

Conversation: Proverbs 15:28; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; James 3

Marriage Advice from Oxen

One Sunday a teaching-pastor dared to go where few pastors are willing to go. He called marriage, “work”, and had the audacity to compare a delicate bride and handsome groom to two dirty, bulky, yoke-pulling oxen. Of all the nerve!

In a day and age chock-full of Disney romanticism, post-modern liberalism, and LGBTQ fanaticism, he had managed to de-romanticize marriage in all its blissful glory and call it something few are willing to, only to illustrate his point with a picture that couldn’t have been further from Cinderella’s happily-ever-after ending. Every hopeless romantic in the room gasped for air, every lazy lover looked for the nearest exit, and I’m almost certain that some of the young single women fought back the urge to shout, “Heretic!”, for fear of the ushers – we’ve got some burly ones.

But you know what? The pastor was dead on. He couldn’t have been more right and the illustration couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Marriage has always been a challenge and will continue to be in every generation. With so much at stake when it comes to marriage, we need to enter it spiritually prepared. As laughable as a 300lbs hot dog eating contest winner thinking he can be an NFL lineman, is a biological man who thinks that because he is a biological man, he is ready to lead a bride and a home. The divorce rate takes no prisoners, an adulteress lurks at every turn, and a marriage made in heaven can quickly become a living hell when it’s put on cruise control.

When asked about divorce and marriage Matthew records Jesus’ poignant response as he declares, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Look at how binary Jesus was when it came to marriage! From gender, to function, to format, God purposed marriage to be a life-long marathon that produces a generation of godly worshippers, sanctifies bride and groom unto holiness, and bears fruit from the work they put in to see it through. All that work means that unity will be essential to production.

Many talk a big game when it comes to bible knowledge and marriage, but the real test is not how much you know but what you actually produce. Does your marriage resemble two oxen pulling a yoke in unity? Or do you find that it can be more like two oxen fighting to pull the yoke in their own direction? Whether it’s your first year, or your fiftieth, we can all learn a lot about marriage from those beasts.

Here are three things to consider based on the bold pastor’s illustration:

  1. OXEN MUST BE PROPERLY YOKED TOGETHER

Unity is a requirement for oxen to be productive and marriage is no different. When two oxen are placed under a yoke it’s the farmer who brings them together, the farmer who lines them up, and it’s the oxen who stay in place – submitting to the farmer as he places the yoke upon them. Sounds a lot like the role that God plays in a proper marriage doesn’t it? Ultimately, two oxen won’t need to continually stop and be re-adjusted if they start by lining up straight in the first place. Another important thing to remember: the oxen need to be similar in size and kind or there’s little that can be done to make them productive. A donkey and an Ox aren’t meant to pull together. The Apostle Paul commanded, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?(2 Corinthians 6:14). Always wise practice to go with the God’s word when it comes to life long commitments.

  1. OXEN ARE PURPOSED TO WORK

Farmers don’t yoke their oxen for show and they certainly don’t do it for fun – it’s an important part of their purpose. In short, they were meant for work! In the same way, marriage exists to produce. The “work” of marriage should produce holiness, it should produce godly children, it should produce a dependence on the grace of God, and it should produce a clear (yet still not fully complete) picture of Christ and the church. John Piper famously once write that “God designed marriage not to make you happy but to make you holy.”William Tyndale said, “Marriage was ordained for a remedy and to increase the world and for the man to help the woman and the woman the man, with all love and kindness.”Anyone familiar with Malachi 2:15 understands that God wants godly generations to come out of godly marriages. It’s safe to say that marriage is work and that work is our purpose for being yoked together. Talk about de-romanticizing the Disney version of marriage in a day and age where everything is about being happy and living happily-ever-after. Like it or not, it’s true. But don’t lose heart! Love is still as foundational as ever in marriage because who wants to do all that work with someone they don’t love? And all the hopeless romantics said, “Amen.”

  1. OXEN ARE BETTER TOGETHER

Have you ever seen two oxen plowing together? A quick YouTube search will prove this simple fact to be true: they are better together! One 1500lbs ox can do some damage, but two yoked together are unstoppable. It’s amazing what oxen can do when there’s two – and marriage is no different. God intended for both men and women to accept their roles, follow His design, and stick to His purpose. There’s no success in a lone-ranger marriage. A true Christian marriage is a shared mind, shared body, shared emotions, shared goals, and shared direction. It’s you-win-I-win, you-lose-I-lose. In many cultures the concept of “better together” is so prioritized that as a symbol of unity they chain a young couple together during the wedding and sometimes longer. When Jesus said, “…they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6), He was making the commitment of marriage crystal clear. When a man and woman stand to pledge themselves to one another on the wedding day, they are partaking in a gracious gift God gave humanity, and receiving of His blessings. Consequently, when they break those vows, they are not consciously uncoupling or agreeing to disagree…they are offending God and turning their backs on their vows to Him as the One who declared, “I hate divorce”(Malachi 2:16).

So there you have it. Marriage advice from the most unlikely of places. Thank God for oxen and thank God for grace!