What’s your IQ score? What did you get on the SAT or ACT? What was your grade point average?
Or, to ask in a practical way, at a party when the host breaks out Trivial Pursuit, are you the person who people want on their team?
If you were on the game show, Jeopardy, would you be doing so well that you came back breaking records day after day for weeks?
Pick one of these: book smarts like Albert Einstein, super talent like gymnast gold medalist, Simone Biles, or wisdom like ancient philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle.
To get through this tough old world, it’s good to have all of the above.
If we are to have the most of anything, wisdom is the best-but we will be getting to a wisdom that is not of this world.
We can have tons of book smarts and be loaded with talent, but we have to know what to do with them.
Wisdom is about making good choices. It’s about taking what you got and putting it to good use.
How does one get wisdom?
Let’s first talk about how our brains and what we put in them, I’m all for getting good grades in school, and we should be life-long learners.
Then, we need to talk but how we are born with a specific talent, and I will add that we each have a talent of some kind, but natural talent can take us only so far. Our talents need to be developed and that takes hard work.
We should be filling ourselves with all that we can know about God’s creation.
God gave us this planet, earth, and all that is here for our purposes.
So, as benefactors of all that is here, we like these words: curiosity, discovery, wonder, imagination, ideas, adventure, and the list goes on as we are to make the most of what we have here, and we do have everything that we need.
In my telling you now that we have everything that we need, you might be able to present a good argument that we don’t have everything that we need to make it on this planet.
You can point to where there are big shortages in many places. Throughout the world, there are tough realities. People are going hungry for lack of food, people are suffering because of a lack of medical care, people are homeless because of the lack of adequate housing, and that list of shortages goes on and on.
Doesn’t it seem that the world is always crying out for more?
If we only had more, all would be so much better than it is now.
If only we were smarter and had more talent because of so many shortages.
More technology, more science, more government.
More, more, more!
It’s not that we are talking about greed here. For as we see in the world, many people just don’t have the basics in life.
All people have the right to what is needed to lead a common life.
So, what is the problem? Why is it that so many people in the world are lacking the basics of life?
For awhile, we can talk about different government structures. We can talk about topics like equal income distribution. In our discussion, I’m sure many social justice issues would come up.
All these talks are worth having. We can be reforming and reimagining to always be moving towards a better world.
But, there is a little bit of a process in how we go about how making a better world.
One of the sayings that we hear these days is “Knowledge is power.”
We think that the phrase goes back to the 16th century. Thomas Jefferson used the saying when he was establishing formal education.
He said, “Knowledge is power, knowledge is safety, and knowledge is happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson prefaced his thoughts about knowledge with how most people didn’t have knowledge. He was probably looking around and saw that people were not so smart and short on talent.
So this lack in people that he was seeing motivated his making of an educational system to be the foundation of this new country that he had helped form.
We would have to agree that a strong educational system that grows knowledge is a priority for a country to be sound in many ways.
But, as much as I agree in obtaining knowledge, I kind of cringe every time I hear in these days, “Knowledge is power.”
We know how there are two sides to every issue. Every topic can be debated.
I like taking a piece of paper and drawing a line down the middle, and, then, I write cons on one side and pros on the other.
I know that I’m a little on the side of judging things, but whenever I hear people saying, “Knowledge is power,” it seems to me that they are saying they have all answers.
It might be true that they have some insight into an issue and some direction towards a solution, but I doubt that they have it all figured out from one viewpoint.
In our modern era, I think we have a growing obsession with data, statistics, poll numbers.
After all, we do live in the age of information. We have the world at our fingertips. With a search using a few keywords, we can know anything.
We can become instantly smart and have resources to back up our ideas.
A number here, a percentage there, and a quote from an “expert, and we are good to go with persuading the other side on how “right” we are.
Except, that other side also has its numbers, percentages, and quotes from experts.
How can both sides be right?
Well, it’s a matter of opinion. But, whose opinion wins out? What idea do we go with?
The majority wins. Yet, I would argue that group think does not always come up with the best solutions.
It’s here that I would like to stop and check to be sure that we are on the same page.
I’m trying to make the point that we have so much information in these days that we are overwhelmed. All this information leaves us running in many directions.
Are you feeling confused? I have to admit that I’m a little mixed-up in these days of complex issues and situations that keep changing.
People can use knowledge to manipulate to try to control the direction of things.
People are getting good at making their narratives on issues sound morally absolute. They think that their narratives are so right that they can’t be challenged. If someone does offer another side, well, that person is a demon.
When people talk about how knowledge is power, I want to ask what are you trying to do with this power?
Of course, people would say for the good. But, what one person thinks as good and what another person thinks as good can be two different things.
The side with more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make that one side right.
If I’ve done anything, I hope I’ve convinced you that in coming up with the “right” answer by the obtaining of knowledge can get messy.
It’s seeming that the more that we try to solve problems the more messes we make.
Doesn’t it seem we are own worst enemies when it comes to moving forward to making the world better?
Remember that I said getting to the “right” answer is a little bit of a process. A smart and talented yet caring person would see how knowledge needs to come together in way that can be a benefit to all people.
Information is needed, but it also can only get you so far. Critical thinking with some deep analysis is helpful. Looking at how some of the great minds of the past came up with their philosophies can guide us to our moving forward.
But, this is all human stuff. How about if I told you that we have as a resource something more than human?
At first, it seems that human problems can be solved with human things. But, how about if we go to something bigger then ourselves?
This is where we find King Solomon in the Old Testament reading for today.
He has just become king and wants to do a good job like his father, David, did when he was king.
So, what did he do? He did the best thing. He went to God and asked for wisdom.
He could have asked for anything, but he asked for wisdom to lead the people to good things.
God gave Solomon the only answer that a gracious God could give. God said, “Of course, I will give you the wisdom to lead my people to good things.”
Why would God not want his beloved people lead by a wise king?
God was not wanting a super smart king, not a multi- talented king, not a king who was wise by his own experiences, not a king who got counsel from experts, but a king who had the humility to see the work before him and simply ask God for guidance to bring it all together in the best of ways.
Solomon was smart, talented, and had experiences because he grew-up in royal court of his father, David.
He had a lot of privileges, but he also had the humility to go to God for help to make the “right” choices.
Isn’t that what we want our leaders to do-make good choices? Isn’t that what every person should do-make good choices? Isn’t that what we should be doing as citizens, neighbors, parents, students, and workers-making good choices?
It may sound funny putting it this way, but if you want to make good choices in your life, and I think we all do, all we have to do is ask God for that wisdom to make good choices, and God has to give us that wisdom.
God is bound by His own perfect goodness.
God is love, and by being love, He can only give love.
From this love, God gives perfect care. So, when we ask for good things, God can only give us good things.
If we ask for wisdom to do good things, God has to give it to us, and He does give us this wisdom in abundance.
I have proof that you have this wisdom because you chose to come here to worship this morning.
The highest level of wisdom is knowing about the salvation of your soul.
It’s here in worship that we hear of God’s grace in Christ that gives us forgiveness of every sin and the gift of eternal life.
Wisdom says that from our salvation, all else that we need for this life flows.
Wisdom says that because we know we will one day receive the salvation of our souls, we have a hope that gets us through this life in a world that can be so overwhelming.
Wisdom says that as chaotic as this world can be and as messy as our lives can be, we can keep moving forward in confidence.
Wisdom is seeing freedom even when others try to control and oppress.
Wisdom says it won’t always be like this.
Wisdom is seeing more than what is in front of us.
Wisdom is believing more than what we can imagine.
Wisdom is knowing that we are able to do more than we have ever done before.
Wisdom is knowing that there are possibilities in every point of life.
Wisdom is knowing how good things are coming out of the darkest of times.
Wisdom is knowing how what seems a failure can be good for us.
Wisdom is having joy even when there are things to grieve.
Wisdom is finding ways to love those who are not so easy to like so much.
Wisdom is putting the best construction on things you disagree with, and as you can see this list goes on and on because wisdom goes so much deeper to an understanding than we can ever get by knowledge alone.
Do you want more of this wisdom?
Just ask for it, and God will surely give it to you-quite abundantly.
Maybe our prayer to begin this new year is, “Lord, I pray for our world’s leaders and the citizens of all nations to ask you for wisdom, and I pray for myself, so I use the wisdom that you have given to me in all things more. Amen.”