Proverbs 23:23 gives us some good advice when it comes to acquiring truth–
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
At first glance, the words seem contradictory to the following scriptures that tell us truth is free:
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:7-8
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. Revelation 21:6
Yes, God’s truth is free in the sense that no person can ever claim they have sole propriety, copyright, or patent over it. He graciously and generously gives it away to anyone who wants it. It is up to all of us saints to share it freely. Yet, at the same time, ironically, there is a price to pay for it.
The notion of buying the truth is two-pronged. We can buy it involuntarily or voluntarily. The involuntary price we pay has to do with the ideas and principles we may hold onto that are exposed as faulty and mistaken when we discover the truth. God’s truth will dash our misdirected dreams, disappoint our human-centered assumptions, and expose our defects. Nevertheless, it pays dividends to drop our shortcomings in exchange for God’s priceless truth.
The voluntary price we pay includes the time it costs us to have a more thorough knowledge of God’s word through study, meditation, and prayer. How deep we go depends on how much we’re willing to pay. We also pay a voluntary price when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). Paul gave an example of how far the voluntary cost of God’s truth can go when he stated in Philippians 3:7-9–
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Paul’s words echo what Christ himself said many years earlier to his disciples about the voluntary price his followers would pay for his truth and the good works that go with it:
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Matthew 19:29
Considering the way the world has been going, it’s not unusual in life to face a circumstance where we wrestle with how much the truth is worth to us. To stay in line with the Lord, according to Proverbs 23:23, truth must be esteemed as having the greatest value to us to the point where we aren’t willing to sell it out for any evil, unsavory profit or pleasure that the world offers. Furthermore, Proverbs 23:23 teaches us that this same esteem for truth should be applied to wisdom, instruction, and understanding. May the Lord strengthen us to live up to that principle.