There is a famous saying: “if youth knew, if age could.” We tend to think that wisdom comes with age. To some degree, it’s a true statement. Since we learn from life experiences (at least we should), as we age, we realize what we should or should not have done. We come to regret certain decisions we made and wish we spent our time and the energy of our youth on something more constructive and worthwhile. However, by the time we realize that, the opportunity or resources might not be there anymore. Then, we sigh and think to ourselves: “if I could only turn the clock back and undo the circumstances…”
Scripture reveals to us that wisdom is the true treasure and only fools despise wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 8:18). Wisdom is the ability to discern good from evil, that which is truly valuable from that which is fake and superficial. Wisdom is the acknowledgment and fear of YHWH, the Lord–our Omniscient Maker. Wisdom helps us make decisions which would serve to accomplish God’s will, amplify God’s presence in our lives, and encourage others to grow in the knowledge of the Lord’s Word. But how do we get wise? Job 32:7–9 states the following: “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom. But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding. The abundant in years may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice.” In this passage, Elihu states that age should not be regarded as the measure of wisdom. It is the Almighty God who gives us reason, discernment and understanding despite our age. Proverbs 2:6 makes a similar assertion: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Therefore, the Bible reveals that young people are not “doomed” to foolishness. At the same time, the old age neither guarantees wisdom nor precludes people from great accomplishments and new beginnings.
Timothy, Paul’s disciple, is an excellent example of a young but wise leader. Paul encouraged him: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). Knowing Timothy’s sincere and God-devoted heart, Paul is confident that despite his apparently young age, Timothy is mature enough and well equipped to lead others in their walk with the Lord (1 Timothy 4:11, 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:5). Paul’s confidence is rooted in the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) is the sole source of wisdom and understanding: “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Thus, gaining wisdom by experiencing everything is not a wise approach to choose. In fact, the Lord warns us not to experiment with evil: “do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27). We are rather called to imitate Jesus the Messiah in defeating Satan: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). In addition, experience is very subjective and relies on our personal perception. Consequently, people who share similar experiences may arrive to different and even opposite conclusions which are often far from truth. For this reason, some individuals persistently make the same mistakes, live in sin, and hurt themselves and others, despite their old, “wise” age. God’s wisdom, on the other hand, is objective. It transcends human experience and limitations of human reasoning. The Lord grants wisdom to anyone who seeks it like a true treasure: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Proverbs 2:4; see also James 1:5).
Dear friends, let’s not lean on our own understanding or be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:5, 7). Rather, let’s rely on the Most High, our caring Father, and draw wisdom from Him. This takes humility, so let’s humble ourselves before the God of Israel. Then, at any age, we’ll be able to make wise decisions and avoid many painful, unneeded experiences. “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her” (Proverbs 3:13–15).