Wisdom

Presented August 19, 2018 by Jim Guida

Based on 1 Kings 2: 10-12; 3: 3-14 and Ephesians 5: 15-20

“Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad.”

Solomon had such wisdom—the wisdom to ask for wisdom. He was like the Tin Man, asking for a brain, when all the time, he had all the good ideas.

Except Solomon never said, “...if I only had a brain.” Solomon asked for—and got—“an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil….”

Two very different things and two very important things—“an understanding mind to govern” and the ability “to discern between good and even”—two things, neither of which “Trumps” the other.

But the wisdom of Solomon has become one of those Biblical givens we’ve come to accept, like the fact that Noah brought the animals two by two aboard the ark. Except he didn’t. He brought seven pairs of the clean and one pair—two by two—of the unclean. Knowledge is knowing that. Wisdom is not using it in a completely unrelated Bible passage which only serves to confuse the issue.

So, while Solomon never specifically asked for wisdom, we read on in 1 Kings:

“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else … and his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. … From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”

Solomon was wise. But big deal. To use another Biblical phrase, all that wisdom, all that understanding, is no good if you hide it under a bushel. But Solomon followed the advice of his father, David. King David told Solomon, “… be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to God, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go…” And Solomon must have followed his father’s teachings, for God found pleasure in Solomon. Continuing our reading from 1 Kings:

”The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.”

For all his wisdom, Solomon’s foundation was something very basic upon which we can all stand:

1. Walk in obedience to God

and

2. keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses.

This includes the Ten Commandments, the laws in Leviticus and Numbers, and the Greatest Commandments— Love God and Love Your Neighbor.

While some rules—mixing wool and cottons—may not be as relevant today as they were then, the foundations are still strong and must be respected. And they are, literally, Old Testament rules;, none of them is altered by the presence of our Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

We have Old Testament rules to guide us so that we may be careful how we live—how we spend our days. A life dedicated to God, through the teachings of God’s son, Jesus the Christ, is a life Spirit-filled, not a life filled with spirits.

And please allow a digression. I was traveling once and heard someone talking like one of those folks who “are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” We were on a plane and she was offered alcohol. “No,” she proudly announced to her flying mates. “I don’t drink. I’m a Christian.”

“You’re a pain in the ass,” was my first, very un-Christian thought.

God the Father is not opposed to spirits. Think of Jesus’ first miracle—turning water into wine. And excellent wine at that. No, Paul makes it clear, as a spokesperson for Jesus, “Do not get drunk.” And this applies to all we do. Do not get “drunk” on televised football, online games, wasteful puttering about the house, or any other time waster. Instead, spend your days living the spirit of Christ, using your time wisely and for the good.

Paul tells us in Ephesians, “...the days are evil.”

The “days are evil” because humanity makes them evil—whether back in 30 AD or today in 2018. We live in evil times—evil days. But we can reject that evil. Time is a gift from God, who invented it, and we must cherish that gift, as we only make this trip once and tomorrow is guaranteed no one.

What evils—what time-wasters— fill your day? We’ve already had our Prayer of Confession this morning, but is your time-waster iFacebook? Television? Idleness? Despair, loneliness, anger. Okay, that’s my list but you may have your own. But what is a better way to spend our day? Today must be Old Testament day, because all we have to do is look at Micah 6: “Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with your God.”

Volunteer at the school. Stack books at the library. Go for a walk and learn the names of the trees in your neighborhood. Write and preach a sermon! You can do these things!

Fill your days with wisdom. The wisdom of knowledge, the wisdom of experience, the wisdom that comes in the love of Christ. And then, like Solomon, share that wisdom. Make the world a better place. Maybe you won’t write three thousand proverbs, as Solomon is credited with doing, or over a thousand songs. But you can fill a belly. Or a mind. Or a broken heart. Love one another. While we can.

Songwriter Max Anderson may have said it best in a tune rendered by Frank Sinatra and others. I’ll read it and spare you my singing voice:

September Song

The days grow short, when you reach September

And the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame.

And the days dwindle down to a precious few

September, November

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days. I’ll spend with you.

God is always with us, friends. Let us spend the too few, unknowable, precious days, guided by and living in God’s grace and wisdom.

Amen