How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. ~Proverbs 16:16 NKJV
When the book of Proverbs mentions getting wisdom or understanding, it is referring to godly wisdom – practical advice from the Lord about how to live your life well. You can obtain this by studying, meditating on, and memorizing scripture. The Bible contains all of God’s wisdom you need for daily living.
By contrast, consider how truly difficult it is to acquire gold as you read this account by Sheldon Shufelt of Windham, New York, who was one of those gold rush treasure-seekers. He wrote to his cousin in March 1850, describing how dangerous and what hard work it really was to get gold:
We pitched our tents, shouldered our picks & shovels & with pan in hand sallied forth to try our fortunes at gold digging. We did not have very good success being green at mining, but by practice & observation we soon improved some, & found a little of the shining metal.
It is found along the banks of the streams & in the beds of the same, & in almost every little ravine putting into the streams. And often from 10 to 50 ft. from the beds up the bank. We sometimes have to dig several feet deep before we find any…
Many, very many, that come here meet with bad success & thousands will leave their bones here. Others will lose their health, contract diseases that they will carry to their graves with them. Some will have to beg their way home, & probably one half that come here will never make enough to carry them back. But this does not alter the fact about the gold being plenty here, but shows what a poor frail being man is, how liable to disappointments, disease & death.
There is a good deal of sin & wickedness going on here, Stealing, lying, Swearing, Drinking, Gambling & murdering. There is a great deal of gambling carried on here. Almost every public House is a place for Gambling, & this appears to be the greatest evil that prevails here. Men make & lose thousands in a night, & frequently small boys will go up & bet $5 or 10 & if they lose all, go the next day & dig more.
1 Timothy 6:8-10 and 17-19 helps clarify what the Lord considers truly important for a follower of Jesus:
If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Which one is worth more – the uncertainty of riches, or the godly wisdom with which the Lord is eager to supply those who simply ask? As you study God’s word today and pray, ask him to help you store up true treasure. Seek to be rich in good works.
Shufelt’s letter is part of the collection of the Library of Congress: A letter from a gold miner, Placerville, California, March 1850.