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Not a Folly Guy
Proverbs 4:7-9 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Two weeks ago I asked my Sunday school class, “Where is wisdom on display?” Flummoxed looks were accompanied by silence. No answers were forthcoming. We lacked answers.
Then, one week later, I asked, “Where is folly on display?” Responses were easily forthcoming. No hesitation there.
Folly we know. Wisdom, we don’t.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs is a collection of sayings, aphorisms, adages, couplets, and illustrations that convey wisdom and its opposite: folly. Proverbs is clear on this: if you’re going to become wise, you begin with right reverence for God, and steer clear of foolishness.
Wisdom has been described as the art of skillful living. One member of my class defined wisdom as knowledge plus experience. I once heard wisdom defined as knowing the right thing to do in the vast majority of life’s circumstances where the moral rules don’t clearly apply. The Law of God—the commandments—are certainly one source of wisdom. It is wiser to heed those commands than to disobey or neglect them. Wisdom is not less than keeping the commands of God, but it is far more.
How do we become wise? Wisdom, it seems, must be sought. In Proverbs 2:1-11, the writer admonishes the child to “accept” and “treasure” the commandments offered, to make the ear attentive to wisdom, to incline the heart to understanding. The child is instructed to cry out for insight and raise the voice for understanding, to seek wisdom like silver or a hidden treasure. And there is a promise. Proverbs 2:5 says this kind of diligence is rewarded, “you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
Proverbs 2:1-11 makes clear that the Lord gives wisdom. God’s wisdom protects and preserves. The wise person understands righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. The writer describes this knowledge as pleasant to the soul, yielding prudence. These are consolations.
Wisdom also offers us protection. In Proverbs 2:12-15, we are told that wisdom has the power of salvation, keeping us from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely, from paths of unrighteousness and ways of darkness, from those rejoicing in evil and delighting in deviousness and wrongdoing. Lord, save us from wicked company.
In 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul writes to his young disciple, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
These words come on the heels of a warning. Paul reminds Timothy of his own troubles, and asserts that life as a friend of Christ brings persecution, not least the presence and antagonism of wicked people and imposters, deceivers and the easily deceived.
Paul points Timothy to a source of wisdom to help bear him up, one he has been familiar with for a very long time: holy writ. This instruction is followed by words that are more familiar to us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” If you’ve ever been taught about the inspiration and the purpose of Scripture, you’ve likely encountered this verse.
I’m thankful for the inspiration of Scripture, and I find much that is helpful in this description of its uses. But I’m still pondering the meaning of the claim made just before these words, that the scriptures instruct us “for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The NIV says the holy scriptures make us, “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The King James Version, likewise, says holy writ can “make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Wisdom is not less than instruction, but it is far more.
Paul couples salvific wisdom with a person: Christ. We become wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The pursuit of wisdom, undertaken long enough, leads us to the source. In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul states that Jesus Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” His is an unconventional wisdom deemed foolishness by other groups, but wisdom for Christians, nonetheless.
That road runs the other way, too. Once we have befriended Christ, Jesus then leads us back through the scriptures, revealing to us the manifold ways that we can experience his salvation by partaking of his wisdom. Christians often think of God’s salvation in a narrow sense, applying the concept to the afterlife. But walking as God’s friend day by day can keep us from all kinds of folly, various forms of peril, all because we have befriended a person who can provide for us wisdom in any and every circumstance.
Where, then, is wisdom on display? I hope that it is increasingly on display in Christian people, those in whom Christ dwells, friends of Jesus, who have been and are being made wise for salvation through faith.
But the good news is this: the invitation to wisdom is open to everyone, anyone who, by faith, opens their ear, inclines their heart, and cries out for wisdom. God has answered that cry in Christ. God has not only supplied knowledge, but has offered relationship. We not only receive the gifts and benefits of wisdom, but the source itself.
Making progress on Ron Chernow’s Washington.
Still reading Sonke Ahrens’s How to Take Smart Notes.
I finished Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation.
I finished From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. My name is Ben Simpson, and I approve of this book.
I’ve begun Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
Sights and Sounds
Wilco released a couple of new tracks that will be on their upcoming album Cruel Country. That led to my revisiting Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I’ve also been listening to Oscar Peterson’s Night Train, Father John Misty’s Chloe and the Next 20th Century, and Arcade Fire’s WE.
I finished watching Bill & Ted Face the Music. As always, “Be excellent to each other.”
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - Science Fair.