You Need Input If You Want Output

The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
— Proverbs 10:14 ESV

I've got Billy Preston and King Solomon on my mind.  Preston was a musical kaleidoscope of soul, funk, R&B, and gospel. His 1974 chart-topper, "Nothing From Nothing" is wisdom's math. Click here to take a trip down memory lane. It's worth the look for Preston's infectious smile, lively groove, and his amazing Afro.

While I enjoy the song, it is Billy's ringing refrain that sticks: 

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing

There is more than a grain of truth here. All output and no input will leave us with a pile of N-O-T-H-I-N-G. I believe that is why God says, "the wise lay up knowledge."

Matthew Henry, the 17th-18th century Presbyterian minister and biblical commentator had this to say about laying up knowledge:

It is the wisdom of the wise that they treasure up a stock of useful knowledge, which will be their preservation: Wisdom is therefore found in their lips (v. 13), because it is laid up in their hearts, out of which store, like the good householder, they bring things new and old. Whatever knowledge may be at any time useful to us we must lay it up, because we know not but some time or other we may have occasion for it. We must continue laying up as long as we live; and be sure to lay it up safely, that it may not be to seek when we want it.

It is the nature of life and work to drain us. So how do we make sure we have a "stock of useful knowledge" from which to draw? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Read daily: Reading daily creates a steady stream of knowledge and wisdom. There are many ways to do this: Subscribe to a news feed; listen to audio books on your drive; or join a book club.

  2. Listen weekly: Taking the time to "listen to the preacher" is essential. God put pastors and teachers in place to teach God's people. We can't ignore what God has established and expect improvement. Besides, as the Country group Montgomery Gentry note in their song, Back When I Knew It All, "a Sunday sermon can turn your life around." Sermons, along with weekly podcasts, are great sources of wisdom.

  3. Study quarterly: Taking time to attend a conference or a workshop on a regular basis is inviting the necessary "whack on the the side of the head" that stimulates learning and leads to wisdom.

  4. Restock annually: David Nicholas, my predecessor, understood the value of taking time to "restock the shelves." Each summer he carved out some time to draw back and dig deep. I have followed his practice to my personal benefit and to the benefit of Spanish River Church and students with whom I work at Capital Seminary.

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing! But laying up knowledge as long as we live helps ensure wisdom flows when the situation warrants.

What's your plan to "stock up"?


"It is the wisdom of the wise ..." from Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (Pr 10:14). Peabody: Hendrickson.