“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it … Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Proverbs 8:11, 9:1).
by Micah Hess
Wisdom is the skillful use of godly knowledge and understanding. Jehovah, in His infinite wisdom, answered King Solomon’s prayer request and made him the wisest in all the earth. Then King Solomon, in his finite wisdom, recorded what he learned from Jehovah in the Book of Proverbs and in the Song of Solomon.
Much later, during the Gospel Age, Jehovah in His infinite wisdom has given us the opportunity to be drawn by Him, given to Jesus, and to receive the holy Spirit. This opportunity for immortality in Christ appears to be almost closed, and it is of far greater value than King Solomon’s amazing experience.
King Solomon and the Apostle Peter are linked through a proverb of Solomon’s: “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). What is wisdom’s house? What are these seven pillars?
The Apostle Peter provides us with an answer; “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith  virtue; and to virtue  knowledge; And to knowledge  temperance; and to temperance  patience; and to patience  godliness; And to godliness  brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness  charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
King Solomon teaches us how to skillfully apply godly knowledge and understanding in order to follow Peter’s admonition.
Pillar 1: Virtue
Our heart is eager to honor and worship Jehovah when we realize the magnitude of His provision of Jesus’ sacrifice. Peter admonishes us to begin a life of worship by adding virtue (moral excellence and righteous living) to our character. It is foundational to our Christian walk.
Solomon wrote, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10 NASB).
This is not a fear of dread but of reverence, submission, and obedient respect. Wisdom begins with the reverence of Jehovah. The unchangeable nature of Jehovah’s character and wisdom is the compass that will guide us to virtue.
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Paul mirrors this precept: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NET). This is an unassailable fact of life. People and influences with which we surround ourselves will profoundly influence us. To develop a virtuous character, we must do so at the feet of Jesus.
Pillar 2: Knowledge
Often we think of knowledge only as biblical acumen. We strive to gain knowledge by studying the Bible, along with the harvest message, in order to ensure the soundness of our theology. While this type of study is important, Solomon tells us that this is only half of knowledge.
Knowledge in Proverbs is more accurately the appropriate application of theology rather than simply the theory of theology. Bible study teaches us the standard of righteousness, but our application of that standard is the test of completing knowledge. The Apostle Peter urges us to add this experience-based component to the foundation attribute of virtue.
Virtue is the moral compass that guides us to knowledge: “When the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge” (Proverbs 21:11 WEB). Virtue leads us in correction, “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Proverbs 17:10 NASB). When Jehovah is speaking, are we listening?
When we take a wrong turn, King Solomon teaches us to be teachable, humble, and honest. Will we heed Jehovah’s instruction and return to the path of righteousness? Knowledge includes thinking but also doing!
Pillar 3: Temperance
Temperance is self-control. We have opportunities to apply temperance in every corner of our Christian walk. King Solomon warns us that when we lack self-control (restraint), we leave a part of ourselves vulnerable to attack from the outside. “He whose spirit is without restraint is like a city that is broken down and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28 ASV). As with Solomon, if we spend too much time enjoying temporal pleasures, we open our spiritual health and well-being to the attacks of our adversary.
Temperance is important in our spiritual lives too. When our Heavenly Father directs our heart to study a doctrine or guides us to a specific ministry, sometimes in our zeal and enthusiasm we direct all our attention and effort to just that particular area.
We yearn for time to build our ministry in a way that glorifies Jehovah and uplifts our brethren, but we must build our ministry at a sustainable pace. A sense of urgency is good but not if we use up all our spiritual vitality quickly. Spiritual endurance, at a sustained pace, helps us finish the work set before us. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Proverbs 3:13 ASV).
Temperance also tells us to pursue our spiritual growth, ministry and witnessing efforts in a responsible manner. Sometimes our ministry will tempt us to cut corners in other areas of our lives. But we must not steal time from our family or our employer in our efforts to serve and honor Jehovah. Temperance graced with wisdom guides us into this balance. “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Timothy 3:4 ASV).
Pillar 4: Patience
In our culture of instant gratification, one of the brightest lights we may shine is our patience. Our knowledge of Jehovah’s permission of evil and our proper self-control, while we wait for redemption with meekness and longsuffering, develops in us the kind of patience that comes from a deep, settled faith. Solomon teaches, “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27 NASB).
Our culture also rewards a quick tongue. The temptation is for us to engage with our words before we let our brains process our thoughts. Patience with wisdom teaches us to consider matters before voicing our opinion. Such a pause provides time for our New Creature to assess the situation and prayerfully consider it. The standard of righteousness is a wonderful measure that works when we use it, in order to form our words and our actions. “(The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:9-10).
Pillar 5: Godliness
Godliness is the keen sense of reverential piety. Peter exhorts us to let our love and respect for the Gospel be manifest in what we say and do — with everyone. King Solomon places reverential piety at the very beginning of our faith. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
Solomon uses the right Hebrew word for fear (yir’ah, Strong’s 3374). It emphasizes reverence, submission, and obedient respect. Paraphrased, this verse might read, “Exceeding reverence for Jehovah, is the beginning of wisdom.”
Godliness is a pillar of Christian life. Without respect for Jehovah and righteous principles, it is impossible to advance beyond rudimentary elements of Christian grace and knowledge.
The surest way to develop deep reverence for Jehovah begins with a thorough understanding of Jehovah’s divine plan for all mankind. Knowing that Jehovah has a just and loving plan, which matches His attributes, provides us with a majestic glimpse into His heart, His motives, and His gracious, merciful character.
In our present evil world, the battle lines of faith are blurred by worldly opinion. A proper framework of reverential piety is the important beginning of a godly faith and a life of mercy, truth, humility, diligence, honesty, sobriety, and much more. King Solomon taught us that if we practice the godly virtues of mercy and truth in our daily life, we will be Jehovah’s messengers to the world. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
Pillar 6: Brotherly Kindness
To help us along the narrow way of consecration, Jehovah wisely instituted the ecclesia arrangement as a place where the truth is taught and supported, and where hearts are developed into the good ground for the seeds of faith to take root. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Paul urges brotherly kindness in the ecclesia. “Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24 NASB). As Paul demonstrated with his spiritual son Timothy, brotherly kindness will prompt us to consider brethren’s gifts, needs, strengths, and opportunities to be proactive in developing righteousness. When we carefully invest in our brethren, the help that our investing provides to their new creatures is powerful and transformative.
King Solomon teaches, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). He adds real-world practicality to this exhortation. When we think about our ecclesia, are we always loving? In times of adversity, do we come together like family? Do we see our spiritual family as one of the greatest benefits of being part of the body of Christ? Sometimes the seemingly simple things like brotherly kindness get left behind in our haste to follow Jehovah.
Brotherly kindness prompts us to reach out to our brethren with a helping hand when they are struggling or distraught. Nurturing an atmosphere of brotherly kindness, first in our hearts, then in our ecclesia, is crucial for our spiritual growth and for the sustainable growth of our brethren.
Pillar 7: Charity
Love in its purest form (agape) is Peter’s final pillar in wisdom’s house. Reaching the mark of perfect love requires the mastery of the previous six pillars. Agape love means “going above and beyond” a duty-bound obligation. Agape love is pure and fervent love. It is no coincidence that this is the final addition to our faith.
King Solomon tells us why it is so important to have faith which includes selfless love. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgression” (Proverbs 10:12 NASB). He teaches us that the cure for all transgression can only come out of love.
He also teaches the importance of discretion in the operation of love. “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love: But he that harpeth on a matter separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 17:9 RV). The word Solomon uses is the Hebrew equivalent of agape love in the Greek New Testament.
By His example in His great work of atonement, Jehovah teaches us that we cannot simply overlook sin. Jehovah sent his only begotten son to save the world not only because of His love for the world but also because the divine principle of justice had to be satisfied. Thus Jehovah, in his Great Plan of atonement, shows us that agape love covers all transgressions.
From Peter’s inspired exhortation and the wisdom contained in the Book of Proverbs, we are given seven pillars for the foundation and development of a balanced Christian life. Each principle is important and requires intentional development and maintenance. The order of pillars is “additive” in that each plays an incremental role in supporting the load-bearing structure of our faith. We need all seven pillars to prevent spiritual stress and fatigue. Our life experiences as we interact with our family, colleagues and our brethren will provide the proving ground for the development and application of these seven pillars of our faith.
As we strive to develop these foundational characteristics of faith, we would be wise to remember; “Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the LORD and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7 HCSB).
Solomon’s two-part life — obedience followed by disobedience — teaches us to never think we have arrived and to humbly remember our place in Jehovah’s Plan. We must beware of the temptation of pride which accompanies our progress in knowledge and wisdom. A healthy reverence and reliance on Jehovah will guide us toward the prize of the high calling.
We learn godly wisdom through King Solomon’s words. Let us reflect on his life as proof that wisdom (the skillful use of godly knowledge and understanding) is better than “all the things that may be desired.”