Talking Smarts with John and Solomon

Weaving together quotes of a famous one and The Famous One

John Calvin said, “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our intelligence.”

Solomon said it like this in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Smarts. Intelligence. These are all good things. Surely it is better to be with them than without them. But wherever we find ourselves on any scale of intelligence matters far less than the role we assign to it. The key to putting our intelligence to its best use, regardless of how we may measure it, is by properly answering the question, “What goes first?”


Intelligence Goes First

One thing we can all agree on (can’t we)? God is smarter than us. Here are my answers to a quick test. See if yours are similar:

Has the intelligence to… God Me
Create billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars Able Not able
Create a planet perfectly suited for life Yup Nope
Program a perfect genetic code for all life on earth (DNA) Done it Still working on it
Divine a perfect plan and purpose for [insert your name here]’s life Has it all under control Still can’t quite figure out what it is though He’s told me what it is a hundred times (or more) by now

When we put our intelligence first in line, we limit ourselves to a mere fraction of what is available to us. We screen out a far greater intelligence contained in the Holy Spirit. It’s like racing on a bicycle instead of driving a Formula One racecar. It also closes out an eternal perspective. Our intellect can only deal with the things of this world. If we were only living for this world that might be fine, but we must remember that we are created in God’s image, and thus our existence will extend into eternity. That which seems wise to the world is often, if not always, foolish from an eternal perspective. So… we must adopt a different answer to our question…

Spirit Goes First

When we allow the Spirit to be the primary guide for our thoughts and actions, we are able to approach things intelligently, eternally, gloriously, in a way that fits into God’s grand plan. If we attach our intellect, at whatever level we have it, to the Spirit as it moves us, then we fully leverage God’s wisdom and allow our intellect to be one of the tools He uses to achieve glorious things through us.

Have the Spirit First and the Bigger Picture

Let’s not overlook a fundamental parameter to the “Spirit Goes First” plan—you have to have the Spirit! We secure this awesome Holy Spirit through a personal relationship with God, made possible by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus has to happen first before we can put the Spirit first. Without Jesus, we only have our intelligence to work with. If you’re not sure you have the Spirit, check out For God So Loves You to see how you can make it so. Faith in Jesus not only secures God’s smarts, it’s much bigger than that. Faith saves you for His Kingdom for all eternity. The Spirit’s wisdom is only a small slice of the benefits of faith.

Wisdom Will Enter Your Heart

When we think of wisdom we usually associate it with intellect and knowledge. This view falls well short of God’s version of wisdom and those who hold it miss out on the most powerful aspects of God’s wisdom – it’s based on the absolute truth and its power to change you.

“For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”

Proverbs  2:10 (NIV)


Anyone familiar with the goings-on in a kitchen will know that culinary success depends on following the recipe. Each recipe contains ingredients and directions. Leave out an important ingredient and you don’t get what you expect. No yeast in bread will leave it flat. Fail to follow the directions and you’ll also fail. Neglecting to mix the ingredients for cake batter before baking it will result in part cooked egg, part powdery flour. The recipe must be completely followed to arrive at the tasty conclusion. If anything is missing, you get something else. Wisdom has a recipe. It has ingredients. It has directions.  If you seek after wisdom without considering the total recipe, you get something else. As we examine in detail we will find that what world offers up as wisdom comes up short because it is missing important ingredients and directions.

The World and the Mind
For the world, wisdom is thought of as understanding, intelligence, knowledge—all things that reside in the mind. The acquisition of knowledge is an ongoing process of assessing, thinking, and revising one’s point of view to respond to ever-changing input. What constitutes knowledge today, will face certain revision in the future. For example, much of medical practice from the 18th century has been completely refuted by subsequent discoveries about the human body. None of us will be getting a blood-letting to rebalance our bodily fluids from our family doctor this week. This flow of ever-changing knowledge sets worldly wisdom on the swells and currents of a sea of uncertainty. Now let’s be clear—the acquisition of knowledge and understanding is a noble exercise and should be an integral part of a Christian’s walk. They are both mentioned favorably and often throughout Proverbs, chapter 2. We just need to recognize it for what it is—a temporary understanding of the world around us. We also need to remember that having knowledge doesn’t, by itself, compel you to any action. Because one knows how subatomic particles behave when they collide together at near-light speed doesn’t drive any inherent behavior. At best it is morally neutral.

Let’s review:
Ingredients: knowledge, intellect
Directions: think, assess, continually revise
Result: a temporal, morally neutral understanding of the world around us.

Is this what we are really after? Is this truly wisdom? No!
Using this recipe is like setting out to bake a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies while leaving out the chocolate chips and failing to use the oven! Let’s make it right.

The Missing Ingredient – God
Let’s get God into the mix. If we want to really mean something, base it on the unchanging, absolute truth rather than the flux and volatility of worldly knowledge. God, as the author of the truth is also the source of true wisdom. In fact, wisdom is the fabric of which all of God’s creation is made. To take it a step further, wisdom is the very essence of God designed into all of creation.

The Missing Directions
So how do we incorporate the key ingredient into the mix? The bible gives us three steps to take—the missing directions in the world’s wisdom recipe:

  1. Fear God – coming to the realization that God has all wisdom is the first step. Revering Him as the author of all creation , wisdom, and truth sets a yearning for Him. (Fearing God is not being afraid of God—for more on this read “The Lord Is Your Helper” in our archives.
  2. Invite Him into your heart—when you invite God into your heart through faith in Jesus Christ, His wisdom comes along for the ride! Your heart becomes the vessel that holds God’s wisdom. If you haven’t invited Him into it, you simply won’t have it.
  3. Ask Him for His wisdom –once His wisdom resides in your heart, you simply have to ask for it when you need it, and He will give it to you (see James 2:5)

Now let’s review the total recipe, ingredients, directions and all:
Ingredients: God, knowledge, understanding, intellect
Directions: fear God, invite Him into your heart, ask Him for His wisdom, think, assess, continually revise
Result: solid, bedrock, unchanging principles to apply to every situation you find yourself in and a changed heart to do it with.
That’s the truth.

For wisdom will enter your heart when you fear God, when you invite Him into your heart, and when you ask Him for His wisdom.

That’s the YouTruth – Wisdom Will Enter Your Heart.