The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
King Solomon, who many believe was the wisest man who ever lived, succeeded his father, King David on the throne of Israel. As King Solomon became established in the role of King, he was given the opportunity by God to ask for anything. He could have asked for health, wealth beyond measure, and long life. But, instead he asked for wisdom. Wow! It makes one wonder about the value of wisdom.
Many years ago, when my mother passed away, my siblings and I went to live with my maternal grandmother. In my mind, I rationalized that this was not so bad; as I remembered that when she used to visit she would bring me fig newton cookies, which I still love to this day. What I did not understand was that my grandmother was an evangelist. To me that was just something she was called. After living in her house for a little while, I formulated my own definition based on what I observed. (I could not ask because at that time children were seen and not heard). Here goes! Evangelists are people who stay in the church all the time, they take you with them (at least me and my siblings). Moreover, they speak in platitudes and are overly concerned with cleanliness. They have no social life to speak of, they are plain in appearance; wear no jewelry or makeup, listen to no music, watch no TV, and for them everything outside of the church is not of God. (Remember, this was from a child's viewpoint).
I did not dwell on this. But, I did wonder about those platitudes; those little sayings that my grandmother would mumble under her breath or say just loud enough for me to hear, but not understand. Mind you, each Sunday my grandfather would preach his heart out to his small congregation, including me, my siblings, and the few faithful members. I remembered clearly the preaching about iniquity, fire and brimstone; and how people would end up in hell for one reason or another. I was unmoved (actually, it was above my head). But, being in the kitchen with my grandmother, in that small space, I was a captive audience, and like or not I had to listen. She was teaching me how to cook. While the pots simmered, she would sit in the chair in front of the stove, arms folded, and start talking. I thought she was talking to herself at first (not really, but she was speaking in a low, soft voice); I was the only one in the room. "Watch the company you keep; birds of a feather flock together," she would let drop. It seemed so ominous and so random. There was no explanation. I was thinking, what company? I was not allowed to have any company. So, in my mind, this did not apply to me.
Another time she said, "cleanliness is next to godliness." This one I understood because I could not even go outside or anywhere else without cleaning the house, washing the dishes, the clothes, etc., etc. Then, on another occasion, she said "night has no eyes." Okay, I reasoned, this woman is losing it. Of course night has no eyes, neither does day. Besides, what did that have to do with me? I was not allowed to go out at night. There were many more sayings throughout the years, but these and the next three were most indelible. "When you think you got it bad, someone else has it worse. So, be thankful." (At that time, my mother had died, my father was in the hospital, and now I was here in this funless place. You could say I thought I had it bad). And, "Don't hold onto anything or anyone so tight that you can't let go. Nothing belongs to you. Everything belongs to God." This next one was most confusing. I was not sure whether this was one of her usual platitudes or a dire warning. My grandmother looked me straight in my eyes (there was no mistaking that she was talking to me) and said, "You will not make it in this life without Jesus." Here I was all of eleven years old being told this. It was confirmed in my mind, this lady is on another plane. I had no understanding.
Fast forward in the life of King Solomon. He was charged to demonstrate his godly endowed wisdom. You may know the story. Two women had a baby around the same time. One accidentally smothered her baby and she claimed the other woman's baby as her own. They both came before the king to determine who was the rightful mother. He asked for a sword so that the living baby could be cut in half, giving each a half. One woman, said, "no." She would rather the other woman be given the baby so that he might live. The other woman said to saw the baby in half. King Solomon was able to discern that the one who wanted the baby to live was the real mother. "When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice." II Kings 3:28.
Wisdom, simply put is the ability to appropriately apply knowledge. More extensively defined, wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. And, good judgment; the quality of being wise.
Fast forward several years to the dean's office in a high school. No, I was not in trouble. I was one of the deans. The senior dean (my mentor) was having a conversation with a young man who thought he was a gangster and who, unwittingly, ascribed to the theory of magical thinking. (Believing that there would be no consequences for his actions; in the face of incredible odds that there would be deadly consequences). The young man boasted about ripping off drug dealers. He pulled out a wad of cash that was bigger than I had ever seen. He told the dean that he made more in a day than the dean made in a year. The dean did not dispute that. But, he warned him that he would not live long doing that. To which the young man responded facetiously, "live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse." The dean cautioned him that this was not rational thinking. He counseled that young man for hours, but could not convince him to change his path. "Besides, the young man retorted, I have lots of friends who told me how not to get caught out there." "Watch the company you keep," instantly blazed into the landscape of my mind.
Suddenly, I felt compassion. There was no judgment or condemnation on my part for this young man. Several years before I had been in the company of people who led me off my path of faith. Only, I did not see it that way. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is destruction." Proverbs 14:12. I called it exploring my curiosity. It never occurred to me that a few well meaning, fun loving peers could lead me astray. I did not see it coming. It was so subtle. In fact, we were just hanging out, having a good time and before I realized, I was in a big room with bright lights, and we were all chanting. It seemed like innocent fun. One thing led to another and before you know it, I was almost on my way to Japan. But, the illness of one of my siblings brought me back. Sadly, several months after the meeting in the dean's office, we attended the wake for the young man mentioned previously.
1. Wisdom shows up in your actions. Stop, reflect, be honest. Is wisdom evident in your daily living? Your approach to maintaining health: (eating properly, following an exercise routine, keeping doctors' appointments)? Managing finances: (eliminating debt, saving for a "rainy" day)? Building healthy relationships: (putting the time and effort in to deepen and enrich; associating with those of good character)? Are you satisfied that the knowledge that you have gained over the years been examined (evaluated to be right or wrong), assessed for usefulness and applied with discernment and compassion? Can you look into the mirror of your life and express contentment at the ways that your application of wisdom has positively impacted your life and that of those you love and/or encounter. If so, kudos! Or, could you have made wiser choices?
2. Get Understanding. "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding." Proverbs 4:7. Understanding opens the door for applying knowledge and becoming wise. Just like you would not drink a bottle of liquid with crossed bones and a skull on the label because you understand (probably read or someone told you) that it is poison and it could kill you; you likewise would not ingest a product that is or contains a known carcinogen (that which causes cancer) because you understand that it is detrimental to your current and/or future health. Or would you? Remember, no judgment here. Just saying, understanding will enable you and motivate you to want to change harmful or unwise behavior. It could also caution you not to go to places, consort with people; that at times could spell trouble. "Night has no eyes." I have come to understand that under the cover of darkness, many awful things have happened and to be on the lookout for dangers seen and unseen. "God grant me the courage to change the things I can." Without wisdom, we may not understand the difference.
3. Wisdom enlightens. Wisdom brings discernment. Wisdom is available for the asking. "If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5. Ask for it! Once wisdom has shed the light on the things that need changing in your life, pray for the courage to change them. Having fun with friends was enchanting even though I was momentarily blinded to where I was headed. I seemed to be filling a void that existed in my life for years. But, I was humbled and grateful later to have wisdom bring to light the folly of my ways. Change is not always welcomed or easy, but often it's necessary. On my own, I might have kept going. But, life's circumstances brought to the surface the wisdom that had been planted (unknowingly) in my psyche.
4. Get wisdom, and apply lavishly to your life. "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." James 1:23-24. (Check out the Book of Proverbs!) There is a saying that goes, "When you know better, you do better." Be wise. Do better!
This day and on many others I rise and call my grandmother, Evangelist Mary Jackman, blessed. She spoke truth. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein." Psalm 24:1. And, I have learned to give thanks in all things. "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5;18.
Living wisely illuminates the path to the abundant life!