Dig for Wisdom Like It’s 1849

Chris —  June 17, 2013

While those who rushed to California may not have had the right goal, there is something we can learn from their zeal. Scripture tells us to seek wisdom like we are panning for gold:

If you seek [wisdom] like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,

then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:4-5.

One of the fascinating events of our country’s history was the California Gold Rush. If you remember your history, you know that a man named Sutter found gold in the late 1840’s which led to a stampede to Northern California.

People ran for California like lemmings. But it was no easy trip to the cliffs. We can get anywhere in the world easier today than people could get to the gold fields.

Those with gold fever had two options for making it to California. They could cross the continent in a covered wagon facing disease, Indians, and the weather. Or, they could sail 13,000 miles  around South America. In the month of February of 1849, over 50 ships left New York for the gold fields.

People were so eager for gold that when they got to San Francisco they didn’t even take time to unload the ships. By the mid 1850’s San Francisco harbor was filled with more than 500 rotting ships still full of cargo that no one had taken time to unload.

California Gold Rush Pictures: Judge Lynch - California Vigilantes, 1848Treasure hunters fought for their claims. After a claim dispute, a group of Frenchmen and Americans agreed to have two of their own slug it out for a claim. The two individuals went at it for 3.5 hours. Finally, the Frenchman could no longer get up and they went somewhere else. The disputed claim turned out to be the richest in the area.

Proverbs tells us that we are to search for wisdom with the tenacity of those panning for gold. How hard are we digging for wisdom?

For those who counter that this sounds like growing through work rather than grace, Proverbs 2:1-6 is yet another area where Dan Phillips’ oft recommended God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is a “gold mine.” He writes:

God works through means. He does not make bread appear in our mouth–and He does not make wisdom appear in our head. In both areas we must pray, and we must work (page 109, emphasis his).

Of course, our “digging” for wisdom must be in the Word of God which makes wise the simple (Psalm 19:7). Regarding the need to dig for wisdom in Scripture, Kitchen adds:

The humanistic notion that all I must do is look within myself is worse than nonsense; it is demonic (James 3:15). This first conditional statement teaches me who I am – – I am a person who needs God’s counsel (Prov 10:8; Prov 13:10), page 57.


On the relationship between our effort in searching for wisdom and God’s grace, see Is Growing in Grace a Result of Our Effort or God’s Grace?


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3 responses to Dig for Wisdom Like It’s 1849

  1. The Farmer’s Wife June 17, 2013 at 6:12 am

    You had me with the reference to the 49ers…
    Great post! The quote from D. Phillips about how bread doesn’t just appear in our mouths or wisdom in our heads;that is SO true. Good reminder for me. Thanks!

  2. Great post. The things I’ve worked the hardest to achieve have been the most rewarding. Dig for more of God and His wisdom. Great analogy. Thanks Chris.

  3. Mike,thanks so much for stopping by and for the encouragement.