What is wise behavior? The word used here in Proverbs chapter 1 is actually the Hebrew word "sakal" which means prudence. It has the idea of acting with insight. This is an interesting word because it goes beyond even these definitions. The word means to think, ponder, and understand things so that one lives to act with devotion to God and His ways - and thus will be prudent as to evil - and eventually to prosper in God's ways. That is quite a definition, but it does speak to us loudly that to be wise in our behavior is to have a devotion to the Lrod at the very center of our thinking. Want a good life - and one that prospers in all the right ways? Then live a life where you seriously consider what God says in all areas of life.
Three things are used by Solomon to teach us what wise behavior looks like. First it is righteousness. The word here is "sedeq" and it means to live with an ethical and legal standard. This standard is the Word of God and its commandments and decrees. Oh, how wise it is to live with God setting your ethics and standards. When we walk in this way - we will walk wisely - and our behavior will reveal it.
The second word used here is justice. It is the Hebrew word "mishpat" and it means proper judgment. This word refers to a legal decision given by God - which God expects us, as His people, to follow. It means a legal case - and we could see it as practical application of God's Word in individual cases. What is wise behavior? It is not just living by God's standards and ethics, but it is also learning how to take His laws and apply them in individual situations all throughout life. It is practially applying those laws as we face moral and ethical dilemmas throughout our day.
Third, we see that wise behavior is acting with equity. Equity is the Hebrew word "meysar" and it means rightness, equity, and smoothness. It is what is correct and fair - but has an aspect of evenness and smoothness to it. Here is a great balance to the ideas of righteousness and justice. It is the idea of smoothness in doing what is right and correct. Too often we embrace righteousness and justice without the corresponding smoothness of equity. We love what is right - but to often do it so roughly that people reject God's wisdom. They reject it not because they see it as unwise - but they react to our rough, unkind ways in communicating and living it out. The truly wise man whose behavior honors God greatly is the one who can speak the truth in love. He is the one who can offer correction and rebuke so that his soft words can break a bone. He has learned that wise behavior does what is right - but does it with as much gentleness and kindness as possible.
Thus we see wise behavior laid out for us. It involves a love of the truth and a love for what is right and godly. Yet it does so as inoffensively as possible. There is great respect and honor for the commandments of God - but a gentle, loving application of them so that truth is not lost in the rough way it is communicated. Oh, to have such wise behavior as our standard way of living, communicating, and walking out God's ways. There was an example of these three things balanced out perfectly - it was the example of God's own Son, Jesus Christ. He showed us the perfect blend of passion and zeal - kindness and grace - truth and wisdom. May we ever desire to be like Him!