Sunday, August 16, 2015

Older and Wiser

Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

How many of you have heard the expression "older and wiser"?

How many of you agree with that expression?

I remember as a teenager and young adult, hearing that phrase and not believing it. Sure, there might have been one or two who fit the phrase, but in general, most "old" people were not very wise at all. It wasn't until I got a little older - and perhaps a bit wiser - that I understood the true meaning behind being "older and wiser." It wasn't until I got a little older that I learned the importance of it.

All of our readings today deal with two concepts - age, and wisdom. But the age that is spoken about is not physical age. Instead, it is our maturity - emotional and spiritual maturity.

In our text from Ephesians from a few weeks ago, we were told we will grow up (or, as some translations say it, we must grow up). In our text from Proverbs this morning, we see a similar statement when we're told "lay aside immaturity and live and walk in the way of insight." In our Psalm, we're referred to as children - "Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."

Both insight and fear of the Lord are pieces of wisdom.

The first verse of our Proverbs reading this morning says "Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars." The first time I read this text, I was immediately curious about those seven pillars. What do they refer to? What are these seven pillars? How can I be wise? Obviously, the secret to wisdom must be those seven pillars.

I began scouring the internet trying to find the answer - trying to gain the knowledge of what wisdom is. (This is the reason I am rather late in writing this sermon.) What I found - no one is entirely certain what these seven pillars are. But even though there was no clear cut answer, I did find some information which seems to make sense.

First - there is the number seven. This number is generally used in the Bible to express completeness or divine perfection. In numerology, this number is associated also with truth (or with being a seeker of truth). When we consider Truth from a biblical standpoint, we are not simply referring to knowledge. Truth in the Bible is more than this. It is more than just knowing what the Bible says - what God says. It is the utilization of this knowledge. In John 14:6, we hear Jesus say that he is "the way, the truth, and the life." This truth that Christ is - that God is - is wisdom, and is something we should seek.

But how? How do we grow up? How do we lay aside immaturity, and be wise?

Several sources I found point to James 3:17: "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."

Using this verse, the pillars would be to be pure, peaceable, gentle, not stubborn, compassionate, humble, and sincere.

Several other sources cite the previous chapter of Proverbs - chapter 8, verses 12-14: "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power."

Using these verses, the pillars would be: prudence, knowledge, fear of the Lord, counsel, sound judgement, understanding, and power.

I see wisdom as a combination of all of these. Wisdom is to take the knowledge we know and use that knowledge in a way which is beneficial to others and serves God.

One of the wisest people I know - a person whom I go to quite often whenever I find myself troubled by a problem in my own life - has several of these traits. He is a good, upright man. Yes, naturally a sinner - he's human after all. But he tries to make the "right" decisions in life. He is a peaceable person, gentle and kind. Humble and sincere. He can be stubborn, but only when he truly is in the right and I am in the wrong. If and when the other happens, and I am in the right, he is willing to concede rather than argue just for the sake of "being right." He gives good counsel, based on truth and knowledge. He tells it how it is but with kindness and understanding.

Wisdom is to speak the truth in love and kindness. It's knowing when to speak, and when to hold your tongue. It's about knowing the Good News of Christ, and living it. 

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