The Beginning of Wisdom
January 3, 2016
Luke 2:52; 1Kings 3:9
Rev. Michael A. Trask
God comes to Solomon in a dream and he says “Ask what I shall give you!” He left it entirely open. Solomon could have asked for anything. He could have asked for a 12 inch Chicken Teriyaki sub. He could have asked for muscles like a professional wrestler or a real cool sword. He could have asked for a girl friend, or a pizza, or a PS4! These are the kinds of things that are on the mind of men as young as he. But he asked for an “understanding mind.” He asked for wisdom.
Good choice. A very good choice. The best choice actually. Wisdom is the ability to act or think or speak in the best possible way; no matter what the situation. Everyone want’s to be wise. Nobody want’s to be a fool. And you don’t want the ruination that inevitably comes upon the life of a fool. We want to be wise. We want to be wise in our deeds, wise in our thoughts; wise in our speech.
So where does wisdom come from? Is wisdom the same as gaining an Education? No. Indeed, a wise person will seek to educate himself and will take advantage of every opportunity to learn, but then again, we’ve all met people who have been highly educated and yet behave quite foolishly. And we’ve also met people who have had very little formal education and yet are supremely wise. So education is not wisdom, wisdom is making proper use of education.
Okay then, experience: Is experience the same thing as wisdom? No. To be sure, A wise person will seek experience and will take each experience whether good or bad, in a constructive way so that he might learn more about what to do and not to do… and thus improve on his life. But then again, we’ve all met people who have had boatload of experiences and yet have foolishly made a complete mess out of their own lives. Experience is not wisdom. Wisdom makes proper use of experience.
Well how about confidence. Is wisdom merely the ability to confidently go about your life without flinching? While confidence is often the companion of the wise person as he goes about his his life, confidence is not wisdom. Foolish people are often exceedingly confident in their foolishness much to the aggravation of all who know them. So Confidence is not wisdom. Wisdom can lead someone to confidence that is grounded in truth.
So if wisdom is not education and not experience and not confidence. Where can we go to find wisdom? To what well may we go to drink deeply of wisdom? As it turns out, wisdom is a spiritual thing.
In every account that we’ve read about the 30 year old Jesus we see nothing but wisdom. There was never a time when the adult Jesus cringed and said, “oh no, I said too much!” Never a time when Jesus pounded his head and said “stupid, stupid, stupid!” Never a time when he embarrassed himself. Jesus was the epitome of a wise man: capable of making perfect use of his educational opportunities; capable of learning from his experiences, and having confidence that comes from knowing the truth.
And Jesus started out as we did. When he was born in Bethlehem, he could not speak, he could not read. He did not know the world. He did not know the ways of the world. For Jesus truly emptied himself when he became one of us. He set aside all his divine knowledge and wisdom so he could truly grow into the world as we do. He was made to be like us in every way.
So what is different about Jesus? Why was so much wiser than the rest of us? He was without sin. He wasn’t born with the sinful nature that we are born with. that’s the difference between the boy Jesus and the rest of us. This is what made him so very wise so very early in his life.
How does the sinful nature prevent us from being wise? It leads us to be centered, self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed. We struggle with our parents, struggle with our teachers, despise those who have been given as authorities in our lives. And so our growth is often stunted… by ourselves . Our sinful natures lead us to get carried away with anger, carried away with lust, carried away with who knows what…. we are carried away. Large chunks of our lives can be lost. So you see, the question of wisdom in our lives is a spiritual question.
The Grown up Solomon would come to write “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (prov. 9:10) What does it mean to fear the Lord if not to take him at his word? God has continually told us in his word, that our chief problem sin. Sin with in us. And he’s right. Sin is what brings death. Sin is what brings sadness. Sin is what makes us foolish. Left to our own devices, we will destroy ourselves in sin. And Satan laughs as yet another of God’s creatures throws away what potential he’d been given.
But if we fear the Lord; If we begin to hear his word; if we begin to take it into ourselves; we will be appalled at our sin; we will admit that we’ve hurt God and we’ve hurt others; that we’ve been lying to ourselves.
But furthermore, as we hear the word of christ, we hear of Christ Jesus. The epistle lesson for today, Ephesians 1:3-14 tells, us about this “blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” That, of course, includes wisdom. And then verse seven, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” You remember I said that Jesus came into this world with no sin, but he would later become sin for us when he went to the cross. He would take our sins away.
So it works like this: Our sinfulness prevents us from being wise, but in Christ God takes our sins away. We are forgiven and wisdom becomes possibility for us. Why? Because we begin to get past ourselves and confess our weakness to God. Remember when God asked Solomon what he wanted and Solomon asked for Wisdom? He prefaced his asking by completely coming clean to God about his weaknesses. Wisdom comes to the one who is honest to himself and honest to God. Wisdom comes to the one who’s sins are confessed and absolved. When we get on our knees together each Sunday, there’s a lot going on there. Many are put off by it, they think its demeaning or degrading. But right there, in the that moment, if it is done thoughtfully and reverently we see the beginning of wisdom. Amen.