The urgent “retain” language of Proverbs finally began to sink into my consciousness this last year. Solomon says plenty about gaining, buying, finding, and searching for wisdom. That has been my focus for the past 25 years.
However, I have begun to notice a pattern in my life. If I don’t regularly teach, talk about, think about, or otherwise call certain truths to mind, they tend to slip out of my consciousness. Anybody who has taken a foreign language knows the principle “Use it or lose it.” I’m beginning to understand that principle applies to wisdom too.
Proverbs 3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments;
Proverbs 3:18 [Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast.
Proverbs 3:21 My son, let them not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
Proverbs 4:5 Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Proverbs 4:13 Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 5:1 My son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; 2 That you may observe discretion And your lips may reserve knowledge.
Proverbs 6:20 My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck.
These passages highlight the necessity of wisdom’s retention. It is not the case that once gained wisdom is yours. Wisdom is not like silver or gold in this regard. Wisdom, the dual skill of seeing life and all of its circumstances from God’s perspective and as a result of living life God’s way, is like any other skill: it must be maintained through deliberate practice. And like any other skill, the basics must receive focused attention.