Get Understanding

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).

For most westerners, life is about acquiring things. We spend most of our waking hours working to earn money to buy things and then a lot of the rest of the time is spent thinking about things we want to buy as well as buying those things. Even homeless people here in LA seem to spend an inordinate amount of time collecting things which they push around in their carts.

It seems perfectly natural to collect things for the future, just like the squirrels, even if we don’t really need them. Many times our drive to get things goes beyond reason as we collect just for the sake of collecting. The wealthy collect homes, cars and jewels. The geek collects gadgets and machines, the average person collects all sorts of things including clothes he may never wear and dozens of other bits and bobs with which he fills his home, garage and storerooms.

In addition to the stuff we accumulate, others accumulate friends, information, experiences and knowledge. It seems to be human to collect, get, acquire, purchase and lay hold of all sorts of things. We measure our achievements, success and worth by what we have been able to get. Even toddlers who can barely walk know how to hold onto what they have while, at the same time, grabbing what their friend or sibling has.

Solomon was probably one of the greatest “getters” of all time. He collected houses, gold, fame, friends, influence, wives and children. He knew how to get things and it was he who said “in all your getting, get understanding”.

There is nothing more important to get than understanding. It is free, yet very few ever get it. Yes, we will go to the ends of the earth to get all sorts of trinkets that are of lesser importance and we will pay enormous sums of money for those things. But the most important and most valuable thing to get is free, and very few bother with it. The first diamond in South Africa was found by a farm boy who picked it up and took it home for his sisters to play with. He did not have a clue that what he had picked up was worth a lot and that people would come from all over the world to find what he thought was just a stone.

In the same way, understanding is freely available yet we throw it away without realizing that what we had is worth more than anything in life. Job says that man, in general, does not know the value of understanding (Job 28:12).

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15).

When Solomon first came to the throne he prayed “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1Kings 3:9). That needs to be our prayer. It is interesting to note that he asked for a heart or attitude of understanding. Understanding is an attitude. The wise and the fool both see the same situation or go through the same experience and one will gain understanding from it while the other will get nothing.

Two people will both look at a new machine. One will admire how the thing looks and even appreciate what it is able to do but the other will try to understand how it works. If you give the second a mechanical device, he may even take it apart just to see how it works because he wants to understand and not just know.

Thus we need to look at the Scriptures and life’s experiences and not just enjoy and appreciate them. We need to understand them and especially understand how they apply to our lives and how we can learn from, and live them.

Understanding is more than knowledge. Many people have education, knowledge and information but they have no understanding. The circus has monkeys that ride bicycles but the monkey has no idea how the wheel, the pedals or any other part of the bicycle works. He does not even understand that if the chain comes off, it won’t work. Many people are able to stay on top of life but they do not have the faintest idea what it is all about. David says “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding” (Psalm 32:9). The ability to understand is exactly the thing that makes the difference between people and animals.

Sadly, even some Christians are like monkeys in the circus. They go through the motions, go to church, read and pray, but they have no understanding. They do not understand what God is trying to do in their lives, they do not understand the meaning of Scripture, they do not understand how their actions affect others and they do not understand why various things happen in their lives. In a sense, they are like a monkey or a horse, they have life and are able to do a few things, but have no clue what it is all about.

The Ethiopian was devout and was even reading the Scriptures but he had no clue what he was reading or the meaning of the words on the page. Neither did he understand what the Passover was all about, even though he had travelled many miles to attend the feast in Jerusalem (Acts 8:30-31). He could read the words, and even asked some good questions but he did not understand. Fortunately, he wanted to understand and so grabbed hold of the opportunity Philip offered him to learn.

As believers we need to pursue understanding above all else. Yes, we want to get things, but in all our getting, we need to get understanding. We must rise above the mindless, mechanical religion practiced by so many. Getting understanding begins with asking the right questions about what the Lord is trying to teach us, how the Bible applies to our daily living and how we can live a life of obedience to His perfect will.

Let’s pray with Job: “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (Job 6:24). And with David “Give me understanding, and I shall live” (Psalm 119:144).

In all your getting, get understanding