The virtue of wisdom differs from knowledge in that wisdom is normally understood as the immediate insight into things, the practical understanding and grasping of what is true and right in its living expression and form. The wise man is the one who sees clearly and deeply into the mysteries of God. He is the one who can give concrete advice in the everyday affairs of life, the one who can point out the will of God to man who is confronted by actual problems and decisions. He is the one, who like Jesus, knows not only what is in God, but “what is in man” (cf. Jn 2.25).
In the Old Testament, a whole body of literature developed concerning the theme of divine wisdom. (See Doctrine & Scripture, Part 2.) The Psalms, Proverbs and other wisdom writings such as Ecclesiastes, and the Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus, Son of Sirach show clearly what wisdom is, and what it is to be wise.
Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way, in the paths she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men. O simple ones, learn prudence; O foolish men, pay attention. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge.
Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
I, wisdom, dwell in prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
I have counsel and sound wisdom, I have insight, I have strength” (Prov 8.1–14).
In the New Testament, divine wisdom is found in Jesus Christ, who is Himself, “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1.24).
. . . among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. But, as it is written, “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (Is 64.4, 65.17) God has revealed to us through the Spirit. . . . And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit (1 Cor 2.6–15).
In the holy Scriptures, the Spirit of the Lord is called “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Is 11.2). It is this Spirit that the Lord gives to those who believe in Him.
For God has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.
For this reason . . . I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power in us who believe . . .
For this reason I, Paul have written . . . to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known . . . (Eph 1.9–10,19–19,3.1–10).
In the Church, as Saint Paul says, the divine wisdom is given to the spiritual person. The wise man, who possesses the Spirit of God, can show forth the “knowledge of salvation to His people . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1.77–79). The opposite of divine wisdom is sinful foolishness which brings man to calamity, sorrow, ruin and death (cf. Prov 10–14). In the spiritual life of the Church, it is the wise men, the spiritual masters and saintly teachers, who have gained divine wisdom and so are made competent to direct and guide the destiny of men’s immortal souls. It is for this reason that all men should submit themselves to their instruction and rule.