Wisdom....hmmm, where does it come from? What's it all about? What does it mean to be wise? Solomon was supposed to be the greatest king of all in the Old Testament story of the leaders of Israel. According to a story in I Kings, he could ask God for anything he wanted and God would grant his wish and, wisely, he asked God to give him wisdom so that he could be a good leader. There are not that many stories about his wisdom but there is one that is quite familiar where two women came to see him to have a dispute settled. It seems that the two women lived together and both of them had babies at the same time. One night when a tragic accident happened and one baby died, the two women came to Solomon and asked him to decide which woman was the real mother of the baby. Solomon, in all of his wisdom, asked for a sword to be brought out so that the baby could be divided so that each woman could have half. The real mother screamed and said to let the other one have it while the other insisted on killing the baby. By that reaction, Solomon knew who the real mother was. She would rather have the other woman have the baby than to have it die.
We normally do not have such life or death decisions to have to make but we all need wisdom in order to live and work and do what is required of us in modern life. We are confronted with situations that offer us choices to make. We are given opportunities to invest our money in different places. We may be asked to do things for friends or acquaintances that we have to put some thought into. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions and to reflect upon life in such a way that we know the path ahead.
How does one become wise? Can one simply ask God to be granted wisdom and then it happens, as it seems it did with Solomon? Is wisdom something that one gains as one lives in the world and makes decisions, learning from each one? Some of the wisest people I know are the oldest people I know also. Perhaps that speaks to that last question. Simply living long enough may make one wise because one has had to make many decisions and wisdom has come about due to the many situations in which one finds oneself. There are very wise young persons, though. How did they become so wise at an early age? Perhaps wisdom can be a gift, that some persons are just gifted in the area of wisdom and decision making. Perhaps that helps to explain why some people become wealthy at a young age, making wise decisions regarding finances or technology or innovations for society. Wisdom may be theirs even though they have not lived a great number of years.
The psalmist said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have good understanding." (Ps. 111:10) Fear here does not mean being afraid. It means having great respect or to hold in awe. Those who include God in their lives and keep God a conscious presence in their lives seem to have the ability to navigate life in such a way that things seem to work out for them, not always, but as a general rule.
Our lives are like a flow chart. You have seen those devices that help people to make decisions. They contain boxes and lines connecting them. They ask a question and depending upon the answer one moves in one of two directions that lead to another box. Then, another question is there and one must answer it in order to go to another box and this is repeated over and over. We begin life and when we are old enough to begin to make decisions on our own, the decision we make brings about a consequence based on the decision. Then, that consequence offers choices and we have to make another decision. Throughout our lives, we are shaped by the decisions we make. The wisdom we gain by making those decisions guides our lives and leads us into paths we take, much like the lines drawn on the flow chart.
Some people make decisions early in life that they regret later. I know one person who decided to quit college only three courses short of a degree. He made that decision because of the influence of another person. He regretted making that decision again and again but never returned to college to fulfill the dream he had. That decision made it impossible to qualify for jobs that the degree would have opened the door for. His life is nothing like what it may have been if he had completed the task he had begun. Others dropped out of high school and that put them at a level in society that they never thought would happen. Decisions we make guide our lives as we live them.
God, grant us wisdom to make decisions that would guide us into the way you would have us to go. When we are confused or perplexed, grant us your peace as we continue to trust you. Amen.