Wisdom Speaks

Think of the wisest person you know. It may be a former teacher, a grandparent, or your kindergartner. People who have the ability to quickly assess a situation and thoughtfully speak truth into a subject are a blessing to know.

A wise woman once counseled me to wait at least 24 hours before responding to a hurtful comment or email. This was very hard to do at first, as my hurt feelings needed to be expressed and validated with my angry, self-righteous response…and I needed that validation right away! But I respected her and admired how she handled herself, so I made it a rule. Guess what? About 75% of the time I realized that I didn’t need to respond at all after waiting a day. The other 25% of the time I did respond, but in a much more thoughtful and considerate way than I had originally planned out in my mind (one hundred times).

I also learned that when I ignored her advice and immediately shot off my unfiltered and ill-considered response, I regretted it 100% of the time.

What is the best piece of wisdom someone has shared with you?

Our lectionary this week focuses on different variations of wisdom literature. The Old Testament book of Proverbs is known for its nuggets of good advice and wise sayings. We use the phrase “proverbial wisdom” as an homage to this collection of writings by King Solomon.

In the second half of Proverbs 1, Solomon presents wisdom as a woman who speaks loudly in the streets, but apparently nobody listens. If you’ve ever been the parent of a middle schooler, you can probably relate.

Proverbs 1 (Contemporary English Version)

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets
    wherever crowds gather.
21 She shouts in the marketplaces
and near the city gates
    as she says to the people,
22 “How much longer
will you enjoy
    being stupid fools?
Won’t you ever stop sneering
    and laughing at knowledge?
23     Listen as I correct you
    and tell you what I think.
24 You completely ignored me
    and refused to listen;
25 you rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

The language in this passage is a little startling. Solomon is not playing around. He draws a clean line between those who are wise and those who are stupid fools. His plea is for everyone to LISTEN. Do you ever feel like God is shouting that at you sometimes? ”Listen, my child. Just be silent and LISTEN to me, and I will get you through this.” Wise people pay attention.

26 “So when you are struck
    by some terrible disaster,
27 or when trouble and distress
surround you like a whirlwind,
    I will laugh and make fun.
28 You will ask for my help,
    but I won’t listen;
    you will search,
    but you won’t find me.
29 No, you would not learn,
    and you refused
    to respect the Lord.
30 You rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

Those who hear God’s command to LISTEN and refuse him do so at their own peril. When we refuse to respect the Lord, reject his advice, and pay no attention, we reap what we sow.

31 “Now you will eat the fruit
    of what you have done,
    until you are stuffed full
    with your own schemes.
32 Sin and self-satisfaction
bring destruction and death
    to stupid fools.

But mercifully, God provides a way out. If we change our attitude and listen to him, we will be safe and secure. We need not fear:

33 But if you listen to me,
you will be safe and secure
    without fear of disaster.”

So listen. What is God saying to you today?

Listen by Janet Owen

Conventional Wisdom

The disunity we are experiencing in our country, our towns, our churches, and our families is rooted in our discourse, and the subsequent positioning we take from intractable sides. One says blue and the other says red, and both point to endless articles to bolster their point. One says conservative and the other says progressive, and both point to scripture to prove their position. This type of debate-posturing results in both sides being disenfranchised from the koinonia, or the fellowship/kinship of the combined whole.

Paul writes this in Philippians 2:

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.

The root of our disconnect with one another is found in our reliance on our own wisdom. We apply our personal conventional wisdom to matters that wisdom defies. Our wisdom is colored and flavored with the prejudices of our environment, our status in society, and our upbringing. And when we think that OUR wisdom is better than THEIR wisdom, the community is destroyed. Truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent people can effectively argue an issue from many sides. So where is the truth?

1 Corinthians 1 (The Message)

18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

The only truth that matters in the end is Christ crucified. All other debates, posturing, and positioning can only lead to further disruption of the singular message of “Christ crucified.” There is no human wisdom that can adequately explain this. There is no intelligent education that can sufficiently prove anything. Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Go and preach THAT, and that alone.

Unconventional Beauty by Michelle Robertson