Are You Wise?

January 19, 2009

Oh, a wiseguy, eh?

A couple of weeks ago, I reflected on a new sermon series I’m doing with my church based on J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Many of you gave awesome, challenging, and encouraging responses, so I’ll continue on with that reflection.

Today, I want to talk about wisdom. Wisdom is an incredible commodity, much sought after, yet all too rare in our day and age. Many people fance themselves wise. Others attempt to substitute raw power for true wisdom. As a pastor, I’ve found I have a limited amount of ‘influence’ to spend with my congregation. If I should spend that influence unwisely on projects which are not fruitful, I’ve wasted my influence. So I am all too grateful to have wise people around me who can save my influence by gently telling me when an idea I have is unwise.

The Bible talks a lot about wisdom.

Go read Genesis’s story of the fall. Eve approaches the forbidden tree and picks the fruit. Why did she do that? Of all the reasons, there is one reason that is recorded that stands out:

She saw that it was good for gaining wisdom.

Check it, that’s what it says. The drive for wisdom and knowledge was the first lust of the human heart that led to sin. Turns out, the first thing that Adam and Eve realized in their ‘enlightened’ state was that they needed clothes. Oops. So they sew up some fig leaves. Unfortunately, they weren’t wise enough to know that fig leaves contain a nasty resin that causes skin rashes. So much for enlightenment.

Since then, humans have fancied themselves wise, yet the results speak otherwise. Let’s look at subsequent examples of human ‘wisdom.’

Abraham was told by God that he would father a great nation. Since he was rather old and so was his wife Sarah, this seemed rather unlikely, even coming from God

So Sarah, in her great wisdom, tells Abraham to take the young, healthy, and probably attractive slave girl, Hagar and try to get her pregnant. Then she and Abraham would adopt the child and call it their own

And I’m scouring the pages, and I don’t see Abraham anywhere saying anything like, ‘Honey, that doesn’t sound like a good idea,’ or, ‘That’s not what God said to do,’ or even, ‘I think we should pray about this.’ In fact, there is no recorded protest from Abraham at all.

Sarah: Abraham, why don’t you go sleep with our voluptuous teenage slave girl tonight. We’re in the middle of nowhere and laws against such things have not been invented yet, so it’s all good. I have a headache anyway.

Abraham: Sweet.

And so, Ishmael is concieved on a one night stand. Sarah immediately resents Hagar, and Ishmael over the course of his life, and the decendants of both Isaac and Ishmael are still at each others’ throats over a little scrap of desert land called Gaza. Another example of human ‘wisdom.’

And then there’s King Solomon, the wisest of all Israel’s kings. He was known all over the world for his wisdom and knowledge. It was truly given to him by God. His first demonstration of his wisdom: his judgment between the two harlots arguing over the baby. Solomon reveals the true mother by threatening to cut the baby in two.

But then, Solomon had a little problem called ‘too much of a good thing.’ Turns out Solomon liked women…a lot. He had 1,000 of them hanging out at his place. And a lot of those women were foreigners and they fancied a lot of foreign gods. Well, you know how you sometimes just have to give into your wife’s wishes. Solomon had to give in to his 1,000 wives’ wishes. He left behind God’s wisdom for the wisdom of worshipping false idols.

Guess what God did.

He took Solomon’s kingdom did to it what Solomon almost did with that baby so many years before. He sliced it in half and destroyed it by causing a civil war.

The difference between God and an earthly king is that God perfectly balances raw power with unhindered wisdom. Power without wisdom just makes a man a dictator. There is no ruler who has never had the lusts of the heart cloud his wisdom, except God. His actions bring no consequence on Him which He cannot anticipate, so he can look at every situation objectively.

It’s my thought that as part of being made in the image of God, we are given a little bit of wisdom from Him. This wisdom starts out small and undeveloped. But if we use that wisdom, work it out, it strengthens and grows. The more we choose to be wise, the wiser we’ll be. But the more we try to be wise on our own terms, the worse it will probably turn out.

Do you feel that you’re in God’s wisdom, or fumbling in the dark? Me, it took a long time to even live wisely half the time. Any stories of God’s wisdom working out in your life, or times when a little bit of wisdom would have done a lot of good? Any other good wisdom stories in the Bible that come to mind?