Lord, who instructs the wise and the fool, help us to choose what makes us whole and completes our understanding with your strength. Amen.
Proverbs, adages and sayings are a part of every culture’s literature. We learn them at an early age as we are reminded by our elders “haste makes waste” or “cleanliness is next to godliness” or “a mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” A first-grade teacher collected some well-known proverbs and gave the first half of each to her students, asking them to complete the sayings. She got some interesting results. “Children should be seen and not…spanked or grounded.” “Don’t bite the hand…that is dirty.” We all need principles in order to live well.
Empty joy of folly
In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce wrote, “Experience is the wisdom that enables us to recognize the folly we have already embraced.” The world teaches us to “reach for the gold ring,” regardless of the cost to others or ourselves. The prodigal son knew something of this desire as he went in search of worldly goods, bright lights, the approval of others and greener pastures. However, he soon discovered he had left happiness, unconditional love and fulfillment in his own backyard. Eugene Peterson describes verse 21 in this way: “The empty-headed treat life as a plaything, the perceptive grasp its meaning and make a go of it.”
A self-made man or woman is counter to wisdom teaching that says that we benefit from the whole village. “Look what I have done” always separates us. “Look what we have done” shares the responsibility, the workload and the credit. Listen to the experience of others. Share your experiences with others as your life lessons can save a sister or brother from your failings and struggles and provide insight into how to venture forward.
In 1924 Erich Von Stoheim wrote and directed a four-hour silent film entitled Greed. It is the story of two men and a woman and their demise based on jealousy, lust and greed. A miner-turned-dentist wins a young woman away from her cousin. She wins $5,000 in a lottery and becomes obsessed with money and refuses to spend any of her winnings even though she and her husband are in dire poverty. The cousin, jealous of their love and the money, betrays them and the marriage and relationships are destroyed. At last murder intrudes, leaving no one unscathed. The two men die in the desert with a stack of gold coins but with the loss of everything else of value.
Today we live in economic decline because financial institutions and officers lured people into thinking they could have anything they wanted with no thought to responsibilities or consequences. Thus people spent money they did not have, over-extended credits and chased elusive dreams beyond their means.
Proverbs 15:27 says, “Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households.” Greed is at the root of the world's problems today. Satan, once a perfect angel, became greedy, desiring to have people worship him instead of God. He got Adam and Eve to follow him instead of the Creator, thus setting himself up as an opposing god. His greed ultimately led to death. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Too much of what we hear on the political scene about values is superficial and panders to an emotional longing for the past. True values are hard core. They are the anchors that secure us in the storms that attack us. We can only face illness, betrayal, loss or disappointment with a strong faith based on the values that we can trust. David Jordan, an early 20th century scientist said, “Wisdom is knowing what to do next; skill is knowing how to do it and virtue is doing it. The gift of wisdom that goes unopened is a gift wasted. The lesson passed from one generation to another is how to find our way on the paths others have already traveled, enabling us not to travel alone.
The Wesley Quadrilateral, coined by Albert Outler in 1964, outlines a way of life that is established in Scripture, informed by traditions, educated by reason and actualized by experience. A faith based on these four principles renders an understanding of how God intends us to make choices, treat others and live life. This is how we apply wisdom. We take what we have been taught, the wisdom of generations past. We use it as a measuring stick against the dilemmas we face and we make knowledgeable decisions about the way we will live.
A Chinese boy who wanted to learn about jade went to study with a talented old teacher. This gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth's hand and told him to hold it tight. Then he began to talk of philosophy, the sun, and almost everything under it. After an hour he took back the stone and sent the boy home. The procedure was repeated for weeks. The boy became frustrated--when would he be told about jade? Then one day when the old man put a stone into his hands, the boy cried out instantly, "That's not jade!" What awesome opportunity we have to share and receive wisdom.
Take Action: Write out four benefits of keeping your core faith and share those with someone else and discuss your experience with your class.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art. Thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping thy presence my light.” Hymn # 451 The United Methodist Hymnal