Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Do We Learn from Proverbs?

This week’s narrative reading is: Proverbs 8:1-11, 22-36

1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 4 "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. 32 "And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death."

Some thoughts on the Scripture lesson:

We don’t give too much thought to wisdom these days. The majority of western culture values what we call “street smarts”- ability to move quickly, decisively, and based on cultural expectations. That last one is the biggest difference between the behavior that is valued by the world, so to speak, and the behavior that comes from wisdom.

Wisdom, having witnessed God’s shaping of creation, knows what lasts and what does not. Wisdom, having witnessed God’s grief over creation, knows the value in relationships, when to speak the truth, and how to live in love, even in times of disagreement. Wisdom, having witnessed God’s sacrifices for creation, is willing to imitate Christ in self-giving and hope for the sake of others.

St. Augustine is often quoted as having prayed, “Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Modern disciples might have the same thought about wisdom. We want it, but not just yet. Not when it might mean speaking up against injustice, articulating a less-popular opinion, standing with our enemies for their safety, or witnessing for Christ in word and deed. All of these things seem wise and desirable, but not yet.

Woman Wisdom, though, in Proverbs warns against those who refuse to let her enter. When the chance to welcome wisdom is missed, it is considered equivalent to loving death. Joy, lasting happiness, is what comes from welcoming wisdom now, learning her lessons, and asking God for the courage and strength to live them.

Wisdom might not always be our favorite houseguest or bring the most fun with her. However, she brings life and integrity in her luggage. So we must work to invite her in and welcome her to stay.

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