Not All Wisdom is Created Equal
On the surface today’s lessons appear to be a disjointed mess. For instance what does the wisdom of Solomon and “faith the size of a mustard seed”, and the depths of God’s love have to do with each other? The grandeur of Solomon appears to have very little in common with the smallness of the mustard seed and the reading from chapter 8 of Romans seems to just be off doing it’s own thing. The great thing about scripture is that it challenges us to dig deeper than the surface and look beyond our basic understanding of biblical stories.
Let us begin with King Solomon. Today’s lesson in which God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks Solomon what he would like God to give him and Solomon requests wisdom – we all know this story. We know that Solomon was the wisest of kings, and that his wisdom was famous throughout the world and that the Queen of Sheba came to Israel just to listen to Solomon wax wise eloquence. We know that because Solomon asked for wisdom and not earthly goods that God heaped wealth upon Solomon as a reward for his “wise” request.
Maybe you even recall the story of the two women fighting over the baby and Solomon’s answer to their dispute and how the king resolved the problem only highlighted the Godly gift he possessed. Maybe you are aware that it is Solomon who built the Temple and that it was during Solomon’s reign that the kingdom of Israel reached it most profound height. All of these examples are wonderful demonstrations of how Solomon used God’s gracious gift of wisdom.
What most people don’t remember is that there were times that Solomon didn’t act all that wise. For instance it was Solomon who introduced the worship of foreign gods into the country through his polygamist lifestyle. Solomon married a number of foreign women and allowed them to bring in their foreign gods and set up temples and high places for the worship of those gods. Or, that Solomon conscripted forced labor upon the people in order to build the temple and his homes. Or, that the kings opulent lifestyle brought about the ruin of Israel’s economy. When we look at the big picture of Solomon’s history it kind of leaves one scratching their head and questioning the nature of God’s wisdom and if it can be abused and ignored.
I think where people get confused about wisdom is that we mistake craftiness and arrogance for wisdom. Crafty people are smart, but they are not wise. Rather, crafty people are manipulative. Just think of the serpent in the garden. According to Genesis 3:1 we are told that “The serpent was the craftiest creature in the garden that the Lord God had made.” And, what did the serpent do with all it’s craftiness? Well the serpent manipulated the woman to eat the forbidden fruit. That is what crafty people do they manipulate people to act against their own best interest. In the end the serpent get’s its comeuppance, but not before it wreaks a whole lot of havoc. So, crafty people are smart, but they are not wise and in the end it becomes quite obvious.
Another, attribute that gets confused for wisdom is arrogance. Arrogance can cover-up ignorance for a while, but eventually arrogant people who are not smart get found out quite quickly. And, arrogant people who are smart eventually get exposed for not being wise because their arrogance prevents them from wisdom. A truly wise person is honest about their shortcomings and is willing to accept that they are not always correct. An arrogant person will never accept that they are wrong.
So what is the wisdom that God gives Solomon? First, let us look at the biblical understanding of Wisdom. According to Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” True wisdom is the fear of the Lord and placing the will of the Lord about your own. Now, I believe that Solomon was given Godly wisdom. But, I also believe that Solomon had an uphill battle in keeping Godly wisdom in perspective and that his problems stem from how he ascended to the throne in the first place.
Solomon’s ascension came about through the craftiness of his mother, Bathsheba. Bathsheba, you recall was the wife of Uriah, and the woman that David committed adultery with and then murder to cover up his sin. Solomon’s father was not his only parent whose moral compass was a little off. Bathsheba manipulated Solomon’s father, King David, to bequeath the monarchy to Solomon based upon a lie. While David was dying, David’s oldest living son, Adonijah was claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne, which as the oldest living son, he was. Bathsheba, fearful for her and her son’s life, went to David and told him that previously David had promised the throne to Solomon, his youngest son. So, before Adonijah could be crowned king David had Solomon crowned king, which didn’t really go over to well with the rest of the family. Solomon was raised in a system of deception, and deceit; therefore, the wisdom of God was always going to be a tough concept for him to grasp.
Another area that Solomon struggled was with the inability to be humble. With the reception of God’s gift of wisdom Solomon mistakenly believed that he was always right. Wisdom doesn’t mean that one is always correct it means that you possesses the wisdom to know that God is always right and you turn to God for direction and insight – not yourself.
The only historical figure to possess perfect wisdom was Jesus. Jesus embraced the wisdom of God in a way Solomon would never have dreamed. Jesus understood Proverbs 9:10 and used the fear and knowledge of the Lord in order to put to right ,many millennium of crafty, arrogant, and naive people and their leaders. Jesus grasped that only true wisdom leads to holy living according to God’s will and God’s ultimate will is to bring about the Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God? It is the eradication of all evil from the world through the grace of God. The Kingdom is achieved through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and made manifest through the resurrection. Now, that sounds great, but what is it? How will we know what it is when we see it?
In our parables today we are told that the Kingdom of God is not found in the amazing and grand, but in the small and simple. It is found in something as simple as a mustard seed and yeast, but it is more valuable that precious jewels or buried treasure. It is as old as Solomon and as new as Jesus, it is God’s gracious and loving will for God’s beautiful creation. But, how do we find it? We don’t find the Kingdom of God we are given it just like Solomon was given Wisdom. We are given grace, and with that grace we are given free will.
Unfortunately, with that freewill we tend to make the same mistakes as Solomon and place our own craftiness, self centered ambitions, and arrogance above God’s good pleasure. There is ultimate good news for all of us as Paul writes in Romans, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angles, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And, if you want to exercise a little free will in which to buildup the common good just remember what a wise man once said, “It is not our abilities that define us it is our choices.” Make your choices be full of wisdom and when you fail repent and believe in the good news that through Jesus the Kingdom of God has come near.