Beyond the power of God’s wisdom to guide and protect us, one of the most captivating aspects of wisdom is its simplicity.
True wisdom doesn’t put itself on display, like the thick volumes of rarely viewed academia that I thumbed through in college. Wisdom is not the complex reasoning of tenured professors. No, wisdom shines in quick, seemingly sudden moments of brilliance.
Consider for a moment the book of Proverbs, most written by Solomon. You would think a book on wisdom would be filled with long theoretical and esoteric arguments, but instead it’s packed with quick-witted and quirky observations on life. We read about everything from health and hatred to dogs and vomit.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. — Proverbs 15:17
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. — Proverbs 17:14
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. — Proverbs 26:11
Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers. — Proverbs 22:28
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. — Proverbs 24:26
Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own. — Proverbs 26:17
The book of Proverbs teaches us that wisdom isn’t just for the elite. Though kings and queens need wisdom, the nuggets are just as applicable to the rest of us. Proverbs is packed with wisdom that speaks directly to the newlywed couple, the chef, the real estate agent, the dentist, and even the pet owner.
Whether you’re looking for practical know-how on how to parent, select friends, eat properly, or deal with a loan shark, Proverbs offers practical insights and advice. Every reading of this rich book offers something new. Recently I stumbled on this gold mine:
Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox. — Proverbs 14:4 NASB
Written in the language of a farmer, this proverb offers a powerful business lesson: Sometimes work stinks, but keep it up because it will lead to profit.
While I love writing, I don’t enjoy some aspects. I would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than develop a book proposal or align footnotes in a manuscript. This Scripture insinuates that any job worth doing has its poopy parts — whether you’re a college student, a writer, a farmer, a minister, or an executive for a Fortune 500 company. (I just said “poopy.” I’m officially guilty of cursing like a six-year-old.)
The proverb gives listeners a choice:
No oxen = No poop = No profit OR Oxen + Poop = Profit
Notice that the proverb doesn’t tell listeners how to live as much as it illuminates the best possible life. Wisdom doesn’t impart information as much as it invites us into the process of transformation. When we embrace wisdom and its companions, we find our attitudes changed and our responses transformed. Shoveling doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Such wisdom found in the Bible has always captivated me. It has depth and texture and richness. You can read one verse a hundred times and still find something new.
I remember hearing the story of Solomon and the two disputing mothers when I was a child. Two women came to Solomon and claimed to be the mother of the same child. They told the king that they both had been living in the same house and gave birth within three days of each other. One woman’s son died in the night from accidental suffocation. Now they stood in the king’s quarters arguing.
Who was the real mother of the living child? The story didn’t have a clear answer. Was it mother No. 1 or mother No. 2?
Solomon asked for a sword. With the child so young, the king couldn’t know which mother the child loved best, so he wanted to know which mother loved the child best. Solomon decided to divide the living child in two by giving each mother one half of the baby.
Cut a baby in half? Even as an elementary school kid, I knew this didn’t sound very “Bible-like.” One of the mothers spoke up. She would rather have her child alive with a different mother than have him killed at any cost.
The second mother didn’t care. Solomon, in his wisdom, uncovered the untarnished truth proving the real mom.
Solomon’s prayer for wisdom has become my own. I don’t just ask for hunger for God anymore. When I pray, I also ask God for the wisdom of Solomon. God cannot resist this simple, humble prayer. James 1:5 says,
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
So I pray, trusting and hoping that God will answer. And at moments I see Him respond in full grace.
A few years ago I was speaking at a leadership conference. After I finished, a man cornered me in the hallway and asked a rather pointed question: “What gives you the right, as a woman, to get up and speak to this audience, which includes men, and talk regarding anything having to do with Scripture?”
The question took my breath away. Before I could cognitively process the words coming out of my mouth, I answered, “Because I am His daughter.”
The man looked at me, recognizing the principle that a daughter — whether on behalf of a heavenly father or a human one — has a right to speak on behalf of the family. He said, “That’s a good answer.”
As I look back on my simple response, I realize that it also carried a depth which was neither defensive nor offensive. I could have given many answers, both theological and theoretical, but the simplicity of wisdom rested on my lips. God had heard my prayers.
As I look for wisdom in my daily life, I find that it often displays itself in the simplest of answers and the most concise of responses. Yet all too often, I see wisdom mistaken for clever sayings and cute quotes. These one-liners make their way into eternally forwarded emails and are even quoted on church signs and in leadership circles. You probably recognize a few of them:
• Let go and let God.
• God grades on the cross, not the curve.
• God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
While all these contain truth, never mistake wit for wisdom. Never mistake God for an acronym (WWJD, anyone?), or worse, think that he can be summed up in one. And always beware of anything that rhymes. Phrases like these get under my skin because even if they are fun to read, they don’t require reflection. They may contain a “ha-ha” moment but no real “aha” moment. True wisdom, on the other hand, might have the ha-ha, but it always delivers the aha.
Scripture breathes wisdom like we breathe oxygen. It can’t not. Through Scripture, God reveals himself. This wisdom cannot be captured, let alone contained, on a neon bumper sticker or rubber bracelet. Wisdom itself invites us to go deeper — right into a relationship with God himself.
We find rich counsel on the life we were meant for — in our families, communities, and world. We discover our personal responsibilities to others. And we unearth how to put love into action.
In an interview with Billy Graham on 20/20, the television host asked, “If you had a homosexual child, would you love him?” The evangelist responded without missing a beat, “I would love that one even more.”
That’s the kind of wisdom that quiets the critics and invites the holy hush of the Organic God. Such a response reminds me of Jesus. As if it wasn’t enough that the thirty-something was constantly presented with the sick, mentally ill, demon possessed, poor, hungry, and spiritually lost, he was also confronted with tough theological questions from the religious leaders. Some wanted to know the truth while others wanted to trick him. Yet his responses are loaded with wisdom:
On a question regarding tithing and taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
On a question of marriage and the resurrection, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
On his choice of dinner companions, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
On the issue of greatness, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
With the exception of answering questions about the end times, Jesus’s responses are short but revealing. In just a handful of words, he exposes, enlightens, and — to borrow a line from Emeril — Bam! presents the truth. Most theologians would respond to such questions with volumes, but Jesus is unique in his brevity, not with a ha-ha as much as an aha.
I have the same kind of aha moment whenever I encounter God’s wisdom. I can’t help but stand in awe of the Organic God who is abundantly wise.
Excerpted with permission from Organic God: Fall in Love with God All Over Again by Margaret Feinberg, copyright Zondervan.
* * *
Proverbs is a book rich in wisdom for daily life. Incorporating it into your daily reading. Just read one chapter a day and catch up on the last day if that particular month has less than 31 days! What is your favorite proverb? Come share with us on our blog! ~ Devotionals Daily