Today’s scriptures speak of wisdom. In 1 Kings, the queen of Sheba visits Solomon to test his great wisdom and she declares to Solomon: "Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard." The psalmist declares: "The mouth of the just man tells of wisdom, the law of his God is in his heart." And in Mark, Jesus tries to impart some wisdom to the disciples in relation to dietary rules and what’s in the heart. Clean and unclean.
Like the queen of Sheba, we are all seekers. We look for knowledge and wisdom. One of the things I’ve learned in life is that wisdom is a gift from God. And God places people and circumstances in our life to impart that gift to us. Or at least give us the opportunity to gain wisdom. We can gain knowledge through study, but knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. At best, knowledge can be an aid in our quest for wisdom.
Many years ago I stood before a group of professors who wanted to test my knowledge. It was my oral comprehensive examination that I had to pass in order to receive my degree. I was pretty nervous at first. The questions started coming fast and furious, but I was handling them pretty well. I gained confidence in my knowledge as time and the exam went on. In fact, I must have appeared a little overconfident, as one of my professors, an elderly (and wise) gentleman, asked me the question: "If I wanted to have a plate of ma’amoul and you had to prepare it, what would you do?" I stared at him blankly. I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked what it was. He said a middle eastern desert. I asked about ingredients. He listed several I had never heard of. As our exchange went on, I realized he knew I would not know the answer and he wanted to make me stop and ask questions. God used him to teach me some humility and to be willing to ask questions about things that I did not know.
And wisdom does not necessarily have to come from the elderly. These days I teach Sunday School to second graders. A few weeks ago we were studying Christ’s teachings on forgiveness. As an exercise, each child had to tell of an incident where they had a hard time forgiving someone. One child told of a fight with an older brother, one told of unkind words from a friend, one child told of the theft of a candy bar. We came to a wonderful, little girl who told of her father’s desertion of the family. I stared at her blankly. My heart broke for her and I did not know what to say. Finally, one of the children piped up: "You have to forgive him. Jesus says so." We can learn so much from children. Especially in the arena of forgiveness.
Christ offers wisdom in the story from Mark. So many of us worry about rules. Food rules, clothing rules, appearance rules. Jesus says it’s what’s on the inside. God sees the heart. And the heart is what can produce evil. Or it can produce good. My prayer today would be for all of us who are seekers of wisdom. Like the old hymn requests, grant us wisdom, grant us courage, that we fail not man nor Thee.
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