Daily thoughts during this worldwide crisis.
One sure path to disaster is a misunderstanding of independence. Some of us get there tragically because those whom we should have been able to rely upon have let us down. Some get there through pride and thinking that we are always “the smartest person in the room.” Some are simply hard-headed and come to the ridiculous conclusion, “No one is telling me what to do!”
It is a great tragedy to be in a hard place in life and conclude that I must solve it on my own. Too many people have decided that asking for help is a sign of weakness when it is really a sign of strength and wisdom. It is true that asking required humility. That type of humility will cause us to be lifted up and strengthened.
To do well in life we all need to find people who are better than us, smarter than us, and wiser that us.
Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them about your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
How does one get wisdom and knowledge in a time and place where there are very few books – or none at all? This is relevant as we read Proverbs. It would have been necessary to listen to the older generations who had committed stories and poems to memory. It would have been necessary to attend the public reading of texts – in this case what we call the Old Testament. It would have meant reading these texts and then hearing how their truth interacted with the lives of the hearers.
The wisdom of Proverbs has as much to do with what we do with our hands as our minds. Wisdom does not sit around thinking and doling out sound advice. Wisdom learns skills that can sustain a life and contribute to society. The creation exhibits the wisdom and knowledge of God.
What we do with our lives, our skills and vocations are wisdom that can be seen. This is wisdom that keeps us engaged in life, useful to others, and helps us sleep well at night.
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke forth,
and the clouds drop down the dew.
My son, keep sound wisdom and discretion;
let them not escape from your sight,
and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
Then you will walk on your way securely
and your foot will not stumble.
If you sit down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Nothing of value happens without purpose. Those serendipities that are dropped in our path can come as pleasant surprises, but they happen as we are pursuing a goal or a virtue. The beginning of anything is to decide to get it.
It begins with a desire to learn and grow. Wisdom opens life to us in ways that we can never imagine at the beginning. Teach this to our children by living it.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
Words are slippery things. They are apt to be misunderstood in many ways. They may be misunderstood in force because they have changed over time or are used differently in different parts of the world. They may be misunderstood in context. The word “passion” comes to mind. Depending upon whether one is speaking in a motivational class or a church will skew how it initially hits our ears.
The word “wicked” (unless one is a fan of musicals) generally carries with it some form of willful malevolence. One definition of wicked is “morally wrong.” By that standard all of us have some familiarity with such thoughts and action. This is not to lessen its force but to help us stop firing that word at others without ever a thought that it may apply personally.
Wisdom helps us along the path of righteousness. To ignore wisdom is to risk stumbling along the path of wickedness. We all have blind spots. We all have failed to pursue wisdom. Some live in a world where the path of wisdom is hidden from them by those who should be helping. This is the reason we must be patient with each other, occasionally beyond what seems reasonable.
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, “The danger of not believing in God is not that we believe in nothing, but that we believe in everything.” Without some sort of moral anchor, the path of wickedness opens is giant maw to gladly receive us. Seek wisdom.
Jesus guides us in the way of wisdom in the Sermon on the Mount, then says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Mt. 7:13)
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.