Saturday, August 04, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (18)

Anyone who reads here regularly probably already knows I am highly suspicious of claims the Bible teaches egalitarianism. Fairness, absolutely. Justice, always. Equality, in the sense it is currently used politically, not so much.

That said, there are aspects of God’s dealings with mankind that are indeed universal. For example, every single man and woman on earth can reasonably anticipate the judgment of God, either in this life or in a coming day. Likewise, God’s has displayed his love to the entire world and offers salvation freely to all. Again, the offer of fellowship with Christ is extended to any who will open the door and let him in. These things are universals, not limited to a privileged few.

We should probably add wisdom to this list.

9. Wisdom’s Call [Part 2] (Proverbs 8:1-11)

Back in the very first chapter of Proverbs, we read about wisdom’s call. Solomon personifies wisdom as a woman out in the streets offering something good to everyone who desires it and is willing to seek after it. In chapter 8, she reprises this call.

The first eleven verses of the chapter describe wisdom’s appeal. It is:
  • A universal appeal (v1-5)
  • A noble appeal (v6-9)
  • A desirable appeal (v10-11)
A Universal Appeal

Wisdom offers her precious wares to everyone. She offers them on the heights (v2), at the crossroads (v2) and beside the gates (v3). Wherever you are, Wisdom makes herself available: urban, rural or out in the sticks; whether you live in a castle, a hut or a cave.

She offers herself to “men” and to the “children of man” (v4). The first Hebrew word there means “male”, the second means “human”. IQ discriminates by race and sex; Wisdom does not.

Wisdom even offers herself to the undeserving and uninterested: the simple (v5) and the fool (v5). She does not limit her willingness to share to those who demonstrate themselves worthy. In fact, she specifically notes the unworthy. Perhaps they need her more.

Approximately 15% of the world’s population is currently working with an IQ of 65 or less. But James says, “If ANY of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to ALL without reproach.” I see no biblical reason even the simplest individual needs to lack the necessary wisdom for life. Wisdom has something to say to him, and she says it at his level and according to his need. A statistically significant portion of the world’s population have no pressing requirement to be able to evaluate the prudence of building a Hadron Collider, but could use some serious discernment about when to plant and when to harvest. Wisdom offers what is required by each man and woman. She has something to say to us all.

A Noble Appeal

Wisdom continues her appeal:
“Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to him who understands,
and right to those who find knowledge.”
What Wisdom offers is variously described as noble, right, true, righteous and straight. If there’s an adjective for “good stuff”, Solomon probably uses it somewhere to describe the value of thinking with discernment and living well.

There’s a hint in verse 9 that the excellence of wisdom is opaque to those who do not prize it. “All the words of my mouth … are straight to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge.” To find you have to seek. To understand you have to be taught, and to be taught you must be teachable. Dogs do not grasp the concept of holiness, swine cannot think of a practical use for pearls, and the one who insists on living his life crookedly cannot appreciate moral rectitude. It makes no sense to him. It offers nothing he would find useful.

A Desirable Appeal

Finally, wisdom is desirable:
“Take my instruction instead of silver,” Wisdom cries, “and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”
There’s a suggestion here that wisdom is not free. It costs something. It will limit your opportunities in certain ways. There is a tradeoff involved: the words “instead of”, “rather than”, “better than” and “cannot compare” all exclude the lesser thing in order to have the greater thing. This is not to say that wise people are never rich; it is to say that wise people do not make riches their be-all and end-all. There’s a difference.

Wisdom about relationships will cost a young man sexual experience. Too bad; he is better off for it. Wisdom about which life goals are really valuable may cost a young woman the opportunity to pursue a high-paying, stimulating career. She trades that dream for a husband and children, and never looks back. Wisdom about priorities may cost a middle-aged husband career advancement. He’d rather raise his son. Wisdom about what pleases God may cost you the opportunity to see the world and experience the “finer things” in life. Instead, she asks you to contribute all you can spare to spreading the gospel.

Yes, there is a cost to acquiring wisdom, but she makes the case it is worth every penny.

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