Monday, June 20, 2016

This is what we desperately need

When was the last time you heard a graduation speech that mentioned wisdom and how desperately we need it? What the world says we need and are lacking in is tolerance. Or diversity. Or greater distribution of wealth. Or education. Here’s what Harvard University believed about education in the 1600s, taken from an early document: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” That sounds like wisdom to me.

You don’t hear about wisdom in graduation speeches, because its very meaning takes you to a moral foundation, which takes you to God. The word is Sophia, and it means “knowledge of how to regulate one’s relationship with God; related to goodness.” Who needs wisdom? Everyone. Even kings. Solomon could have asked for wealth or longer life or power over his enemies. But he prayed, “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or to come in . . . Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this great people?” Wisdom is knowing the difference between right and wrong, and choosing to do what is right. Jesus illustrated wisdom and foolishness with the parable of the builders in Matthew 7. One man built his house on the sand, and the other man built his house on the rock. Two men, two builders, two houses, two foundations, one storm. The house built on sand fell, and the house built on rock stood. And Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Knowledge hears. But wisdom does.

Wisdom is what we need . . . so, what do we do? Ask God for it. I truly believe that God delights in answering this prayer when we are going through a trial and don’t know how to respond to it. James writes in his letter that when we ask God for wisdom, believing in faith that He will give it to us, God will heap wisdom upon us, and He will do it gladly every time we ask! If I could turn back the clock, one of the things I would want to go back and do over is to change how I responded, much too often, when one of my children would ask me a question about a school problem, or about a chore I had assigned them, or how to do something. Too many of those times ended in tears from the child, because of my impatience. It is a point of shame in my fathering. I am grateful to God who covers our shame, and I am grateful for sons’ and daughters’ resilience and willingness to forgive. I think back to my own childhood and teen years. The teachers I loved the most and the employers I loved the most, and wanted to work the hardest for, were the ones who showed great patience with me when I didn’t understand how to do something. They were willing to teach me every time I asked. They were teaching me something much more important than math or how to do my job; they were showing me what God is like.

What the world needs now, and that includes you and me, is God’s wisdom. Ask for it.

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