Do you live in an educated society? Education is highly valued in our world. In the Bible Studies I’ve led, nearly every woman has completed high school. More than half of them have a college degree. About 10% have more than 1 degree including a masters and a doctorate. Yet this society in which I live is filled with educated people who continue to make foolish choices that cause all kinds of heartaches for themselves and for those around them. Educating our minds helps us to gain knowledge about living in God’s world. God wants that for us. When we take knowledge we have learned and make good decisions about how to use that in our lives, we gain what is called wisdom. Wisdom is applying what you know to make good decisions for your life. Choosing wisdom is a heart issue. A woman with a wise heart will pursue God’s way of approaching life and adorn herself with godliness rather than selfishness. The book of Proverbs is all about how to have a wise heart. This post will look at the different women portrayed in Proverbs to see what we can learn about having a wise heart rather than an unwise or foolish one.
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How to have a wise heart
The book of Proverbs is all about how to have a wise heart. Wisdom is not just for those who are smart in the head. Hooray for that! You can have a wise heart if you never completed high school. And you can have a foolish heart if you have a PhD or MD. The difference between having a wise heart and having a foolish is in the choices you make in applying what you know to be true. Are you going to choose God’s way of approaching life or your own? That is just as true today as it was 3000 years ago when Proverbs was written.
I have a college degree. There’s nothing wrong with being an educated woman. God wants us to be as knowledgeable as we can be about the world that He designed. I believe that it gives God great pleasure to watch us diligently study His creation and share our enjoyment of that with others. But God wants us to be educated women who know Him and follow His ways first of all.
As a student, I was an academic achiever. I had lots of head knowledge from books, but my mom said to me in high school that I just didn’t have any common sense. She added that I would let my emotions rule my head. She was right. At 19, I discovered God’s Word, His knowledge. And I have been on an adventure ever since to learn from Him and apply what I learn to my life. If my heart is going to rule my head, at least I want to have a wise heart!
Wisdom begins with the heart, as we read in Proverbs 4.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
In biblical language, the heart is the center of the human spirit. Our emotions, thoughts, motivations, and actions—the wellspring of life—all of those things spring from our hearts. Being wise is a quality of the heart—not just education of the mind.
Think about this: What often happens to smart people who think they know a lot? If we think we are smart, we tend to rely on our know-how and our own tactics to solve life’s problems. I struggle with this still. I don’t always go to God with a sense of inadequacy, seeking His guidance, before I launch headfirst into “fixing” a situation. Do you do that?
Several years ago, I was in a class studying 1 Corinthians. The beginning of chapter 8 just struck me. Paul is speaking to Greeks who prided themselves on how much they knew. He said this to them,
We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
I found a quote that struck me about this topic.
Knowledge is proud that it has learned so much. Wisdom is humble that it knows no more. (W. Kay, Commentary On First Corinthians)
Knowledge is proud that it has learned so much. Isn’t that so true? But it’s not being smart that makes us wise! It’s our hearts—your choices and my choices of what to do with what we know! God’s desire for us as women is that we have wise hearts!
There are lots of references to women in the book of Proverbs. One summer as I was beginning a study of the book, I read through Proverbs and color-coded all the references to females. At the end, I had 4 full pages of verses! I put those into 4 categories of women then looked at their hearts.
#1 The foolish woman—What kind of heart does she have?
Proverbs 9 names this woman “Folly” and says that her heart is undisciplined and is ruled by her emotions. She acknowledges nothing of truth. She is self-centered, wanting prominence and seeking attention. She offers excitement to those around her but delivers danger.
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)
She’s empty. She may be beautiful on the outside, but it’s only skin deep. Wasted beauty. She lacks discretion. Her heart is willfully destructive with no thought for consequences. Her heart is self-serving. It sucks the life out of those around her.
You know women like this who never seem to learn the lesson of how to make good choices. And their bad choices affect those who live around them. That’s the foolish heart.
#2 The contentious woman—What kind of heart does she have?
The contentious woman’s heart is quarrelsome. It stirs up trouble and is ill-tempered. That involves complaining, whining, & nagging.
A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand. (Proverbs 27:15-16)
Being in her presence is as aggravating as a constant drip-drip-drip from the faucet. Homelessness is better than being around her! She drives away family. Her heart is impossible to restrain because it has determined to be contentious!
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. (Proverbs 21:9, 19)
The contentious woman is not necessarily lazy or undisciplined like the foolish woman. She might be a perfectionist or overachiever. Perfectionists can be very contentious.
Perfectionists are people who not only hold unrealistically high standards but also judge themselves or others as always falling short. The thing about perfectionists is that they don’t ever experience satisfaction…Nothing is ever good enough. (Kyung M. Song, Dallas Morning News, May 30, 2004, Is Perfectionism a Bad Thing?)
That is true in spite of their many accomplishments. Perfectionists can be contentious women.
You know women like this who are never satisfied. Maybe this describes you. Here’s a word of wisdom— God expects faithfulness from us, not perfection. Okay? Having a contentious heart is not a good thing.
#3 The immoral woman. What kind of heart does she have?
Proverbs 7:5-23 describes the immoral woman as defiant, restless, deliberate, and scheming. She rejects and deserts her covenant partner. Her heart is seductive, persuading others for evil. And she denies accountability for her behavior.
This is the way of an adulteress: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” (Proverbs 30:20)
A woman who is deliberately doing this behavior may have spent years of gradually letting herself be drawn into this kind of heart and lifestyle. I don’t want to have the heart of an immoral woman. And I hope you don’t, either. Jesus met women who were involved in immoral behavior, but their hearts chose faith in Him and the new life He offered them. You can study those in our Live Out His Love Bible Study of New Testament women.
#4 The wise woman—What kind of heart does she have?
Having a wise heart is the best choice. Let’s look at some of the qualities of a wise woman mentioned in Proverbs.
A kindhearted woman gains respect. (Proverbs 11:16)
The wise woman’s heart is kindhearted and respectful.
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (Proverbs 14:1)
She is described as someone who builds up her household or family. She firmly establishes it, causing it to continue. Her heart is others-focused, and she sees the long-term consequences of her actions.
Then, there’s the woman described in Proverbs 31. Many hold her up as the ultimate wise woman. I believe this entire description in Proverbs 31 is a practical application of Proverbs 14:1 mentioned above.
The Proverbs 31 description is a poem that uses examples from a middle-class woman’s daily life around the time it was written. It illustrates what a wise heart looks like in the everyday life of a woman who is building her house, not tearing it down. It assumes an educated woman—that she had the skills needed for her life in her world.
What would it look like to have a wise heart in the everyday life of your world? Think in terms of driving carpool, going to work, clothing and feeding your household, loving your family, and using your resources. Your poem and mine would read differently from this one. But hopefully, our poems would represent women who have wise hearts.
Another example of a wise woman in the Bible is Abigail. During a threatening situation, she acted wisely to prevent the destruction of her household and was praised for her wisdom by David, God’s chosen king for Israel. You can study her life story in our Everyday Women, Ever-Faithful God Bible Study.
God desires you to have a wise heart
After reading these descriptions, what kind of heart do you have? What kind of heart do you want to have? God’s desire for you is that you have a wise heart.
In our world, we can be impressed with our own ideas. It’s not education that separates someone from God. Sin separates humans from a holy God. We need something to take away our sin problem so we can have a relationship with God. God’s plan was that His Son Jesus would die for our sins and rise again from the dead. Through faith in Him, we can have forgiveness of all our sins and a relationship with God. A wise heart begins with placing your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once you have trusted in Christ, the way to live after that is to have an attitude of seeking to learn from Him and choose to approach life God’s way, not the world’s way or your own way. Dare to be different from your world.
Not only does want you to learn to make wise choices, He also wants to help you do it— because He loves you. True wisdom means taking knowledge we have learned from Christ in the Bible about how to be holy and making good decisions about how to use that in our lives, while trusting in Christ’s power to help us do it.
Living it out every day
But knowing what’s wise and choosing to do it are 2 different things. It takes practice and skill to learn any craft. It also takes practice to live God’s way.
Plan how you will improve your skills by learning Bible verses that lead to having a wise heart. Anticipate what will be your biggest hindrance. You know where you struggle and why. Ask God to enable you to overcome that. You are not alone. You have a God who loves you and has already given you the resources you need to become a wise woman.
The Holy Spirit living inside of all Christians gives you access to the wisdom from God moment by moment. There’s never a time when you don’t have access to Him. So you can approach God humbly and ask Him for what you need to fulfill your purpose as a woman, wife, mother, or grandmother. Remember that God expects faithfulness but not perfection.
God’s desire for you and me is that we would have wise hearts, regardless of our education. This is what God says to all of us in Proverbs.
If your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad. (Proverbs 23:15)
God is glad when our hearts are wise.
Having a wise heart involves knowing that God loves you. Believing He knows what is going on in your life. Confidence that He is powerful enough to do something about it. And trusting His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!
- Everyday Women, Ever-Faithful God Bible Study on Amazon.com
- Adorn Yourself with Godliness Bible Study on Amazon.com
- Old Testament Women: Connecting their stories with trusting God today
- Romans 14-15: Balance Liberty with Love
- Psalm 91: Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty
- Release Your Expectations of Acceptable Outcomes
- Simple Things to Know When Studying the Old Testament
- Esther: Two Aspects of Trusting God
- New Testament Women: Trust Jesus to satisfy your heart needs
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