Although I am not fluent in Chinese, I do know the Chinese meaning of my name. My full name is Shiao Choong Chong. Shiao Choong, in Chinese, means “little wisdom.” Hence, calling me only “Shiao” is calling me “little!” You can see why I prefer being called Chong.
But why “little wisdom,” you say, and not “big wisdom?” Part of the answer lies in my father’s desire to keep his children humble. And I believe he made a wise choice.
Perhaps my name sparked my enduring interest in biblical wisdom. Ever since I converted to Christianity at age 14, I have prayed for wisdom. Of course, unlike King Solomon, I’ve had to seek wisdom the hard way—through learning and experience. And I am still seeking.
Wisdom is neither intelligence nor knowledge, although they are related. You can be knowledgeable but still be a fool. A doctor who smokes, for example, is knowledgeable but foolish. What, then, is wisdom?
Twice the book of Proverbs says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Wisdom, for me, is the ability to discern the genuinely right paths for life from those that merely appear to be right. This is no easy skill. It requires insight to see beyond appearances, as Solomon did (see 1 Kings 3:16-28).
How do we acquire such wisdom? I believe it begins with two steps: fearing the Lord and humbling ourselves. Scripture states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). This “fear” is a holy reverence of God that brings about faithful obedience and turning away from sin and evil.
Second, this fear of the Lord is intrinsically connected to humility. “Humility is the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 22:4). No one who truly knows God and his holiness can remain arrogant in his or her own abilities, knowledge, or intelligence. If we do not humble ourselves to learn God’s ways and walk in them, we will never be wise: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2). Humble and wise always go together, as do foolish and proud.
Now, perhaps more than ever, Christians need wisdom to navigate a sea of change. How do we respond to new scientific theories? To multiple biblical interpretations? To new sexual ethics? How do we engage these phenomena while faithfully following Jesus? How do we work to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in the global church?
To use the kite metaphor I introduced in my first editorial (Sept. 2016), we need wisdom to fly the kite, to know how hard to pull the confessional string and how much to lean into the contextual winds.
There’s no quick fix to gaining such wisdom. It starts with humility before God’s Word. But it also means learning from our neighbors, even those—maybe especially those—with whom we disagree. Without a humble posture of listening and learning and recognizing that we are fallible, we will always fall for the ways that appear right in our own eyes but ultimately lead to death.
This November, American Christians need such humble wisdom to choose a new president. Whatever the outcome, my prayer is that this election would not further divide Americans and especially CRC Christians. I pray for God’s providence and wisdom for the United States.