Sunday, May 07, 2017

Back to the Beginning

The world is full of smart people.

Currently, if your IQ is 132 or higher, you are in the 98th percentile for intelligence. Worldwide. Mensa has 121,000 members, but in theory its membership could be sixty or seventy million. That’s a lot of smart people.

But scripture teaches there is something significantly more important than IQ.

I’m sure you know exactly what I’m referring to:
“The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom.”
Seems a bit tautological, doesn’t it? A tad redundant, a little self-reinforcing. But the thrust of the message is this: if you don’t value the acquisition of applied knowledge, you haven’t even begun to really learn.

You don’t know a thing about what’s actually important in life.

Intelligence With Hands and Feet

Wisdom is practical skill for living life. It’s intelligence with hands and feet, lived out in the real world. In the information age, if social media is any indication, even common sense is a whole lot less common than it once was; but truly good sense, real spiritual understanding, is a quality rarely seen and precious in any age. It is a quality that is impossible for those who have no reverence for God, no matter how much data they may be able to process, possibly the reason scripture declares it to be the case three times.

And the very beginning, the foundation, the rock-bottom basis of wisdom is the appreciation of its worth. “Whatever you get,” Solomon continues, “get insight”. He’s not merely talking here about accumulating data, adding information or totaling experience points. So before he spends a lot of time sharing the specific insights he has gleaned as the wisest man of his time, he has his readers ask themselves, Do you value this? Are you actually prepared to do something with it? The obvious answer is that if you aren’t, you may as well stop reading now.

Transcendent Meditation

That decided, it is important to realize where it is exactly that wisdom comes from. The psalmist tells us “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation”.

Wisdom comes from the word of God, and from spending time thinking about it. There has to be time for reflection, consideration and what the psalmist calls “meditation”. Merely absorbing it by osmosis is still better than nothing; I know people who play CDs of scripture in the car or listen to Internet Bible teaching in bed at night. That’s a start. But even better to roll the thoughts of God over and over in your mind, contemplate them at length, compare one verse with another and figure out, first of all, what it actually means — what it was saying to the original listener and what the Spirit of God intended to communicate by it — then, later, to consider specifically what God is saying to you; what it could mean to your unique situation and needs.

But so far, that is all between the ears. And knowledge is only useful when you actually apply it; when it changes how you behave daily. It is only then that one can truly be considered wise, insightful or understanding. Because a teacher who doesn’t practice what he preaches is worse than useless. He or she is a blind guide, trying to lead blind men.

“If you know these things,” the Lord says to his disciples, “blessed are you if you do them”.

Kind of obvious, no? But easier said than done.

Harping on the Obvious

What lessons have you learned in life so far? If you’re a Christian, the obvious ones, I hope: Love the Lord Jesus, enjoy his presence, feed on his words, spend time with his people, serve them like he served his own disciples, keep yourself (as James says) “unstained by the world”, and so on, and so on.

Am I doing these things? Am I living them out? If I’m not, then they are mere factoids floating in my cranium, and not “wisdom” at all. The knowledge of them is only useful insofar as I actually do something practical with them.

Why am I harping on something so obvious? Perhaps I’m speaking to myself. But I know believer after believer who is remarkably solid in a number of areas in their Christian life, and yet manages to slip up on some biblical principle that is absolutely blatant and transparent. They go forward in their service for Christ displaying some chronic character flaw of which everyone around them — family, friends and acquaintances — is painfully aware, but to which they themselves seem absolutely blind.

These are otherwise mature believers. It’s surely not because they don’t know what the Bible teaches about that issue.

Truth and Transformation

I suspect it’s because they will not allow the truth they know from the word of God by means of his Spirit to transform them. They will not allow information to transform itself into insight through repeated obedience.

Sometimes, as I say, that person is me.

So, intelligence. The Bible teaches that it’s not what you’ve got that matters, it’s what you do with it.

What has the Lord been saying to you lately?

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