For the Love of God, Volume 2/March 15
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 26; John 5; Proverbs 2; Galatians 1
PERHAPS NOWHERE IS IT CLEARER than in Proverbs 2 that the antonym of Old Testament wisdom is sin.
Solomon addresses his “son”—perhaps his immediate son and heir to the throne, or perhaps a more general reference. Solomon wants this son to “store up” his father’s commands, to turn his ear to wisdom and his heart to understanding (2:1-2). If that is his passion, then (Solomon tells him) “you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (2:5-6). Such pursuit of wisdom will not make a person cunning or shrewd in a crafty sense. Far from it: “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse” (2:9-12).
We should reflect a little on such an understanding of wisdom. The cynical might condescendingly say that this vision of wisdom is too small. It is nothing but the parochial advantage of religious people. Genuine wisdom in our world is often associated with the kind of “sophistication” that moves comfortably, and with equal lack of commitment, around secularists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans— taking from each a bit, rejecting other things, all in the name of a cosmopolitan wisdom. Alternatively, wisdom might be linked with the kinds of “people smarts” that enable you to run a large corporation and make your way in the business world or in the arts. Certainly it has nothing necessarily to do with religion.
Not for a moment should such gifts as “people smarts” be despised. But by itself, such “wisdom” would be judged raw folly in the Bible’s view of things. From God’s perspective, what advantage is there in gaining the plaudits of a culture that disowns God? Does not Jesus ask, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). If this is God’s universe, if he is our Maker and Judge, why on earth (or beyond the earth, for that matter!) should anything be called “wise” that ignores him? How much less should it be called “wise” if it indulges in actions or attitudes forbidden by him? Far from the Old Testament wisdom being confined or too religious, for the Christian, who knows the living God, it is the only view of wisdom that makes sense. Any other stance is necessarily rather sad and frequently merely self-serving.