Focusing on the Principal Thing

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. – Proverbs 4:7

by Barry C. Black, Chaplain, United States Senate

September 2018

When I was in college, I could not decide whether or not to pursue the ministry. Although I felt the call of God on my life, I vacillated because most of the ministers I knew seemed financially challenged. My uncertainty about following my strong sense of being called to preach prompted me to change my college major at least five times before my junior year. When it was time for me to graduate, I had taken many classes but they were in so many different areas that I had many minors but no major. I had failed to focus on the principal thing. In short, I had majored in minors.

In the book of Proverbs 4:7 we find these words: “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.”  The writer of this great wisdom verse seeks to focus us on the principal thing. Although many important pursuits in life are valid, wisdom should come first, enabling us to major in majors, not minors.

What is this wisdom? It is wisdom that involves more than simply knowing right from wrong, or accumulating knowledge. We have seen superbly-educated people behave foolishly; the best and the brightest often fall short of success and honor.  Wisdom is the expression of knowledge through right conduct. It is described in Matthew 7:24 with these words: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Only when we listen to, learn about, and follow wisdom are we truly wise. We are then demonstrating the ability to discern which aspects of knowledge are truly lasting and applicable to our lives. That indeed is wisdom.

Why is getting wisdom the wisest thing we can do?  First, getting wisdom guards our lives from pitfalls. Think of the mistakes we avoid by possessing the wisdom that comes from God. That is indeed where we find the source of wisdom. We must connect with the divine. Proverbs 2:6 says: “For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” God’s guidance provides guardrails to keep us from life’s pitfalls.  As Proverbs 22:3 puts it: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.  The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

Second, getting wisdom brings great reward. Proverbs 8:18 describes some of the rewards of wisdom with these words: “With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.”  Who would want to miss these blessings by a failure to focus on the principal thing called wisdom?

Third, getting wisdom enhances human learning with a divine perspective.  In short, it brings us into contact with God’s guidance. This wisdom from above is described in James 3:17: “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”  When these attributes can be seen in our lives we can be confident that God is directing our steps.

What a privilege to receive this divine perspective and guidance. We forge an alliance with a power far greater than ourselves. Isaiah 55:8-9 describes the superiority of God’s thoughts and providence over our attempts to understand life. It states: “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord.  ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” What a blessing it is to receive help and meaning from the One who knows all things.

I finally completed enough courses to major in Theology, I left my university and entered seminary believing that I would be a financially challenged minister for the rest of my life. I had underestimated God and his wisdom, for He provided a wonderful promise in Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.”

Should we be surprised that getting wisdom is the wisest thing we can do?  Wisdom guards our lives from pitfall, brings great rewards, and reinforces human knowledge with divine insights for those who learn, listen and obey.  I discovered that by making His wisdom my primary focus, God did for me more than I could ask or imagine.

P.S. – If you would like to receive ‘Biblical Wisdom For Better Living” from Chaplain of the U.S. Senate Barry Black on a monthly basis, please send us your email address to