Sunday, May 22, 2016

It is not About Being Impressive

"What was to be the value of the long looked forward to ... wisdom of age? Had they deceived us or deceived themselves?" These are questions posed by author T.S. Eliot in "The Four Quartets," as he expresses his disappointment over the realization that old age does not necessarily bring wisdom and is not automatically bestowed upon us with the advent of grey hair.

In fact, the Bible instructs people of any age to actively hunt for wisdom. In the book of Proverbs we are urged to call out for insight (2:3) and to seek it like silver (2:4). God promises to reward those who pursue wisdom and He generously bestows it on those who ask (James 1:5).

But what is wisdom?
While the world looks for impressive words and the display of one's greatness through riches, titles and positions, this kind of "wisdom" is folly with God (1 Cor. 3:19), because it is fading and has no eternal value. Rather than being measured by our mental capacities and verbal capabilities, Biblical wisdom is reflected in our behavior, what we do on a day-to-day basis. This is most clearly stated in Deuteronomy 4:46, which says that keeping God's rules and statutes is our wisdom.

This truth is also expressed throughout the book of Proverbs. Here, wisdom is described as being disciplined; working hard and then honoring God with one's earnings by tithing and giving alms; staying debt-free (3:9); and protecting the weak and less fortunate. It includes learning contentment, rather than being eaten up with envy (3:31), humbly remembering that God made us and everything that we are blessed with (3:21). Humility is a central theme, as the wise willingly accept discipline from the Lord and reproof from man (3:11). Proverbs also echoes the Ten Commandments by revealing the wise person as truthful (4:24), faithful (6:32) and a blessing to his neighbor (3:25).

God's agenda is completely opposite to that of those who are wise in their own eyes. While the worldly wise desire to flaunt their own greatness, followers of Christ who value Godly wisdom are to pray for a spirit of wisdom that we may know the hope, the riches and greatness of God (Eph. 1:17). God is looking for humble hearts and actions that reflect His character through understanding His riches and greatness. It is not about being impressive, but about being impressed by God.

T.S. Eliot came to the same conclusion in his poem, "The Four Quartets": "Do not let me hear of the wisdom of old men... The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."