When it comes to browsing in the Bible, after the Gospels I most often find myself in that supermarket trolley of good advice and wise counsel, the book of Proverbs. One of the words I enjoy saying, and reading, and hearing, is "wisdom". Just pronouncing it somehow conveys a reassuring sense of the world being made OK, of good decisions, of careful considerate behaviour, of something as good, beautiful and true as the knowing smile of a good friend.
Information informs and knowledge enables understanding. but then, when understanding and human experience flow together, the resulting confluence is wisdom, that deep way of knowing and being known that forms character, transforms lifestyle, and conforms us to the image of Christ. Paul knew about Christ and wisdom; he hoped the Christians of Laodicea would receive "all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ himself in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
My own take on wisdom is profoundly Christological. The Word God utters, the knowledge of the Holy, the incarnate truth that is human life articulated in its surrender to God, the experience of the Creator accommodating to the creature, and thus understanding from within the truth of our humanity and limitation, this is the "loving wisdom of our God." And if indeed it is so that Christ is the wisdom of God, the source and repository of divine understanding and the finally uttered truth of who God is, then all wisdom is tested by Christ, and no wisdom is alien to Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom."
So whether I am reading the book of Proverbs, or Pirke Avot that marvel of compression embedded in the Mishnah, or some of the great wisdom statements of other faith traditions, I recognise a certain ethical tone, a spiritual accent, an echo, perhaps slightly distorted, that is deeply resonant of the Wisdom of God. Wisdom is not disqualified from our consideration because it is uttered by another faith tradition whose dogmatic framework and doctrinal constructions are incompatible with Christian theology. "All the treasures of wisdom are hidden in Christ", the eternal Word subsumes the wisdom of the ages, and so in that incarnate life, crucified and risen, the wisdom of this world is converted into the currency of a quite other way of thinking, acting and being.
So when I come across words like the following, from the ancient Chinese wisdom tradition of LaoTzu, I listen respectfully. And if I do, I am attentive to that which resonates with the uttered words of Jesus, who lived a life which was the uttered Word of God:
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and securityand your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
Or as Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice, and all those other things will find their proper place."