Proverbs 3:16

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Every day during this season of Lent we’re looking at one of the “3:16” verses of the Bible, spotlighting some of the significant theological statements that happen to fall on the 16th verse of the third chapter of a number of Old and New Testament books. 
“Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”
A lot of smart people do really dumb things. 
A fairly large slice of any day’s headlines – what we call “news” – turns out to be a recitation of the missteps, miscalculations, and mistakes of people who probably should have known better. 
Why do educated, knowledgeable people routinely make decisions that shipwreck their lives and reputations? 
The answer, according to the Old Testament book of Proverbs, is that it’s quite possible to know a great deal about a lot of stuff, yet not know how to live.  Standardized methods for identifying “smart people” – whether IQ tests, SAT’s, or ending up on the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions – are not to be confused with measurements of spiritual and emotional health.   
Insightful and informed people, in other words, are not necessarily good-hearted people.
As psychology professor Heather Butler points out in her October 2017 article in Scientific American (“Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?”), “The inventory of negative life events captures different domains of life.”  Or to put it another way, there are lots of different ways to look like a fool.
Straight-A students can forget they have to write a term paper.  People who are great at math and history can fail to get around to dieting and exercise.  Know-it-alls can run up huge debts on credit cards, decide to drive home after a few too many beers, or crash their marriages by cultivating a hidden life. 
Geniuses can be fascinating people.  They can also be jerks.  Knowing a lot about a lot does nothing to prevent someone from being rude, callous, unforgiving, envious, or bitter.  And that’s a recipe for a disastrous life. 
So what’s the need of the hour?
It’s wisdom.  The book of Proverbs has one central aim: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (4:7).

The context of Proverbs 3:16 is an extended personification of Lady Wisdom.  She is portrayed as the ultimate teacher, mentor, and friend.  We read: “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.  She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.  Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:13-18).
What does it mean to be wise?  Wisdom is knowing how to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons with the right attitude.  It’s essentially spiritual “street smarts.”
Notice in the text that wisdom, rightly pursued, yields all the things that people say they value more than anything else: riches, honor, peace, and a life worth living. 
Our culture has settled on the notion that education is the key to the Good Life.  The author of Proverbs wouldn’t disagree – as long as we understand what kind of education we have in mind.  Wisdom isn’t about getting a college degree or taking a few crash courses or experimenting with over-the-counter supplements to develop a better memory. 
Instead, wisdom can actually be found.  It has a permanent address in God’s Word.  If we invest in reading, pondering, and reflecting on the pages of Scripture, we’ll discover that God has already passed along the insights we need to experience the lives we’ve always wanted.  
The world says:  Be smart.  Be clever.  Be impressive.
God says: Be wise.
And the wonderful news is that we can make progress on that lifelong quest right now.