Two Things All Wise People Do

Wisdom seeks out knowledge from the source.

Artyom Kabajev

If you know someone who is wise, I bet you he or she approaches life in two discrete ways.

What's tricky about wisdom is its relative nature. Wisdom isn't an achievement you earn like a badge or a certification, but rather it is a cumulative process of acquiring practical knowledge over time. Everyone falls somewhere on the scale from fool to sage.

Nevertheless, the fact that wisdom can't really be achieved or measured actually leads us to the first behavior all wise people seem to engage in: they seek out wisdom. If this seems like a catch-22, well, it kind of is. Let's illustrate the point with a story from a foodie co-worker of mine.

How to Make Yogurt

I had a co-worker once who was a devout foodie. He had recently purchased a pressure cooker and was lauding the merits thereof. As he went through the list of cuisine he had produced from his new appliance, he settled in on one that caught my attention. Yogurt.

I took that bait.

"Really? How do you make yogurt?"
"Oh, it's easy. First you take some yogurt..."

He continued talking but I didn't hear anything past these first few words of instruction.

"Wait a minute." I said. "You're telling me that you have to first obtain yogurt before you can make yogurt?"
"Well, yes."

My mind could not comprehend the conundrum presented by this seemingly innocuous yogurt manual. To me this was like using a word in its own definition—impractical, unsatisfying, impossible.

Is yogurt some sort of Friendship Bread-like food which keeps persisting in perpetuity until one gets so sick of the product she throws away the starter? And even if that were the case, the questions remains:

If you have to have yogurt to make yogurt, where did the first yogurt come from?

While I'm still not sure of the answer, it turns out yogurt is simply the byproduct of two bacteria, S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus, working together to convert lactose from milk into lactic acid.[1] (This is why the lactose intolerant can often enjoy yogurt, but not milk.) You know those "live and active cultures" you read about on yogurt labels? This is what they're talking about.

While you can, apparently, buy just these bacteria as a starter, it's much easier to use yogurt to make yogurt.

Wisdom is kind of like yogurt. Those who have any amount of wisdom use it to seek out more wisdom. Why? Because it is wise to do so. They recognize they are limited in knowledge no matter how discerning they already are. Just like Solomon wrote, "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance" (Prov. 1:5).

So how do the unwise ever become wise?

Those who are unwise can gain wisdom, usually by natural consequences of doing stupid things or by learning from the example of others. But once someone obtains even a small amount of these wisdom bacteria, it's much easier to use that knowledge to gain even more.

So although it seems strange that Solomon would advise "the wise [to] hear and increase in learning" in response to his teachings—after all they are already wise—his point is that those who are wise will heed his words.

In short: wisdom begets wisdom, just like yogurt produces more yogurt. So no matter how wise or learned you are, you would do well to listen to the instruction of Solomon, of whom Scripture tells us was the wisest man who ever lived.[2]

This ever present quest for discernment and knowledge is a characteristic of the wise, and the book of Proverbs is a great place to start for practical wisdom that still rings true in the 21st century.

As for the second thing all wise people do? Stay tuned next time when we will discuss that very matter. The topic merits its own article rather than just a blurb here. By the way, Proverbs 1 is just one of the chapters included in my Old Testament reading guide.

If you're interested, you can get your own copy for free here:

Stop Getting Stuck at Leviticus


1. Carolina Moyano, “The Chemistry Behind the Fermentation of Yogurt,” FoodUnfolded, European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food, July 8, 2020,
2. See 1 Kings 3:12.

No comments:

Post a Comment