God designed your emotions to protect you. However, for most people, emotions are not a source of protection. Instead, they are often a source of trouble and temptation.
Why is this?
Your emotions are shaped by what you value and the things that you believe. Thus, Solomon teaches that the fear of the Lord, an emotion, is the beginning of wisdom. Job feared God and turned away from evil. Job’s emotions protected him because he valued honoring God.
Therefore, biblical wisdom works best when emotions have been informed by truth. True wisdom is not an exercise in cold, detached, analytical thinking. True wisdom produces a passionate desire to bring honor to God. Bruce Waltke’s translation of Proverbs 4:7-9 captures the intensity of the emotional embrace of wisdom:
The beginning of wisdom is [this], get wisdom!
In exchange for all your acquisitions, get insight.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will bestow a garland to grace your head;
a splendid crown she will give you.
With these words, the Holy Spirit is saying, if you want wisdom, go for it with everything that you have. These words are filled with emotion. The embrace of wisdom is one of passion: “Cherish her and she will exalt you.”
As you give your self to the pursuit of wisdom, she will embrace you with her grace. This is a recurring theme in the Proverbs. Wisdom can only be fully known if she is pursued with passion. (Proverbs 2:1-5) Wisdom is more valuable than anything you can possess. Jesus echoes this theme in Matthew when he tells the parable of the priceless pearl:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.
When you find the most important thing in life, you pursue it with all of your heart. This is a reoccurring theme in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. Without the passionate pursuit of wisdom, you are left unprotected from the attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In Proverbs 4, Solomon is recalling the words of his father to his own son. Solomon was no stranger to the devastation caused by emotions that did not embrace wisdom. His childhood was marked by lies, deceit, murder, and adultery. He was an eye-witness to damage done by having more passion for pleasure and lust than for wisdom.
God’s truth, his wisdom, is your life! Passionately believing this and giving your life to the pursuit of wisdom will result in emotions that will protect you. If your mind regularly focuses on what you don’t have you will be prone to envy and lust instead of gratitude. If your thoughts are consumed by what you fear then you are priming your emotions to work against you and to lead you into worry and anxiety.
Pursue God’s wisdom with all of your heart. This will keep you from emotions that can damage you and your children.