Day 101

Seven Ways to Grow in Wisdom

Wisdom Proverbs 9:7–10
New Testament Luke 13:1–25
Old Testament Deuteronomy 13:1–3,14:1–29


Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most successful films of all time. Much of the film is drawn from T.E. Lawrence’s own account of his time in Arabia. He was a British archaeological scholar, military strategist (colonel by the age of thirty), best known for his activities in the Middle East during World War I. Lawrence explores the theme of wisdom in his memoirs, written in 1926, with the title, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Presumably, Lawrence had in mind today’s passage, ‘Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars’ (Proverbs 9:1). In Scripture, the number seven is often used to represent completion or perfection. In the book of Proverbs, the teaching of Jesus and the Bible in general, we find many ways to acquire and grow in wisdom. Seven of these can be seen in today’s passages.


Proverbs 9:7–10

7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
   whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
   rebuke the wise and they will love you.
9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
   teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
   and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.


1. Handling feedback

When we are criticised, there is no point in replying to those who are merely mocking us (v.7). If we do, they will hate us even more. But it is worth replying to the ‘wise’.

Our response to criticism should never be to ‘insult’, ‘abuse’ or ‘hate’ (vv.7–8). Rather, we must learn from it in order to become ‘wiser’ and to ‘add to [our] learning’ (v.9). Indeed, our response to a rebuke should be increased ‘love’ (v.8b).

This is far from easy – my natural reaction to criticism is often to be tempted to lash out verbally or try and justify myself. Yet the wise path is to seek to learn from the rebuke, feedback or instruction, however difficult that may be.

For example, I have noticed over the years that those speakers who do not like feedback on their talks seldom improve. Those who invite constructive feedback and are not threatened by it often improve rapidly and become far more effective. A right relationship with God will increase your wisdom (v.10) and enable you to hear constructive feedback and grow through it.


Lord, give me wisdom to be constructive when I give feedback and gracious when I receive it.

New Testament

Luke 13:1–25

13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

18 Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’

20 Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’

23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.
25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.” ‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.”’


2. Responding to suffering

In this passage we see Jesus responding in two different ways to suffering. Jesus’ response to people who were suffering was always one of compassion, as we see in his healing of the crippled woman (vv.10–16). Yet here we also see his response to the questions raised about ‘suffering’.

‘Pilate had killed some Galileans while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar’ (v.1, MSG). Some people came to ask Jesus, in effect, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ ‘Was their suffering the result of their sin?’

Jesus, of course, shows extraordinary wisdom in his response. So much suffering in the world is caused by human sin, and we are all guilty. Yet Jesus makes it very clear that there is no automatic link between sin and suffering. They were not suffering because they were worse sinners than all the other Galileans (vv.1–2). Jesus also points out that natural disasters are not necessarily a form of punishment from God (vv.1–5).

While it may be appropriate for us to examine our own hearts when we are suffering, we need to be very careful about making judgments about why others are suffering. Jesus was not so interested in philosophical explanations for suffering. Rather, he was interested in our response. He warns of the dangers: ‘unless you repent…’ (v.3).

3. Pruning and planting

The parables of the fig tree (vv.6–9), mustard seed and yeast (vv.18–20) give us wisdom on how things grow in the kingdom of God. We see when things should be nurtured, when activities should be stopped and when projects should be started.

God is patient, giving as much time as possible for people to repent. In response to the desire to cut the fig tree down, the man gives it one more chance: ‘If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’ (v.9).

The key is to ‘look for fruit’ (v.6). For example, as we look at the numerous ministries in the church, some are extremely fruitful. Others are less so. The temptation is to cut back on the less fruitful ones straight away. However, Jesus encourages us to be patient: ‘If it bears fruit next year, fine!’ (v.9a). Yet this patience doesn’t last for ever – sometimes the moment will come to stop an unfruitful ministry, to ‘cut it down’ (v.9b).

The parables of the mustard seed (vv.18–19) and of the yeast (v.20) remind us that, while the kingdom of God starts small, over time there is vast potential for growth. When the seed was planted it ‘grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches’ (v.19). This shows the enormous value in planting seeds of the kingdom (church planting included). It also suggests that we need to wait patiently to see this potential fulfilled.

4. Knowing when to confront

Personally, I find confrontation extremely difficult. Jesus had the wisdom of knowing when to confront. He exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of those who criticised him for healing a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years, simply because he did so on the Sabbath. He reminds them of the importance of compassion over legalism. If that is a principle they follow in caring for animals, how much more should they follow it in caring for people (vv.15–16)!

Jesus’ answer was brilliantly wise. It ‘delighted’ the people (v.17).

5. Turning to Jesus

When someone asks Jesus a question: ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ (v.23), he gives an intensely practical answer. He says, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door’ (v.24). In other words, don’t focus first on others, but make sure you yourself have entered the kingdom of God. You cannot know about everybody else but you can be sure about yourself.

In this parable, many find themselves unable to enter the house, which represents the kingdom of God. The reason for this is because of the lack of a personal relationship with Jesus. Twice the owner of the house, who represents Jesus, says to those shut out of his house, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from’ (vv.25,27). Being part of God’s kingdom is all about turning to and knowing Jesus.

It appears that some who expected to be included are excluded, but it also appears that more people will get in than expected: ‘People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast of the kingdom of God’ (v.29). Turning to and following Jesus is the wise thing to do, even if it feels like we are in a minority.


Lord, I pray for wisdom today in all the conversations that I have and all the decisions I make. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me the wisdom of Jesus.

Old Testament

Deuteronomy 13:1–3,14:1–29

13 If a prophet... 2 says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

14 You are the children of the LORD your God... 2 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no land allotted to them or any inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.


6. Testing prophecy

We need wisdom in discerning between true and false prophets. ‘Prophets’ today might include not only those with the ‘gift of prophecy’, but also anyone who speaks ‘in the name of the Lord’ – such as pastors, preachers, teachers and evangelists. In all these cases, we need to distinguish the true from the false.

One of the Old Testament tests of the true prophet comes in this passage. Even if a prophet performs signs and wonders, if he says ‘Let us follow other gods’ the people were warned: ‘You must not listen to the words of that prophet’ (13:2–3). In other words, the people were to test the prophet by his teaching – whether he led people to God or away from him. Jesus says, ‘we will recognise them by their fruit’ (Matthew 7:15–23).

7. Revering God

You are a child ‘of the Lord your God’ (Deuteronomy 14:1) and God’s people are called to be holy to the Lord (v.2a). You have been chosen to be his ‘treasured possession’ (v.2b). Under the old covenant this involved strict rules as to what could and could not be eaten. Under the new covenant, Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19).

Under both the old and new covenant, one of the ways in which you ‘revere’ the Lord is through your giving (Deuteronomy 14:22–23). It is a blessing to give. God blesses you as you bless others, and so that you can bless others (v.29c). In particular, God promises here to bless us in our work (v.29). God’s vision for his people is as a community, upheld in mutual giving. As we saw in today’s reading in Proverbs, reverence for the Lord is ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). And ‘if you are wise, your wisdom will reward you’ (v.12).


Lord, thank you that I am your treasured possession. Please help me to grow daily in wisdom.

Pippa adds

Not having a huge number of academic qualifications, I take comfort from these verses:

In Proverbs 9 it says, ‘Let all who are simple come in here!... Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding... The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.

Thought for the Day

Turning to and following Jesus is the wise thing to do, even if it feels like we are in a minority.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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