Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Truth Is Wisdom

Did you have any trouble getting the kids--or yourself--back to school after the holiday break?

"Why do I have to go to school?" is a wail heard in many households on weekday mornings. The assurance that "better education means a better job" has little impact on the average seven-year-old, to whom adulthood is an eternity away and the present issue of boredom-vs.-fun all too clear. Not that there's any shortage of students whining just as loudly at age seventeen--or of fifty-seven-year-olds wondering why there seems to be so much more boredom than fun in life.

And not that their complaints don't, on close analysis, make some sense. Why do so many people spend their school years giving maximum effort to work they hate, so they can get "better jobs" and spend the next forty years giving maximum effort to more work they hate? Just for the sake of money and success? There's never been a salary that couldn't be outspent, never a success that protected against misery. The saying "money can't buy happiness" was probably coined for the benefit of those who drive themselves to hospital beds trying to earn enough to make every problem go away.

Such people are also living proof of another certainty: education can't produce wisdom. Many a former valedictorian has chalked up half a dozen failed marriages, run a thriving business into bankruptcy, made a courtroom's worth of enemies, or literally killed himself by doing things any tenth grader should know better than to do. Conversely, many people become wise with almost no education outside the School of Experience. True wisdom is sound judgment with a strong ethical component: frugality, empathy, humility. Such things (especially the likelihood of someone's applying them in real life) are nearly impossible to measure with written exams.

But while most wisdom isn't acquired by formal education, it shares with good education the characteristic of not being quickly or easily gained. Wisdom grows slowly within those who on one hand listen to sound instruction, and on the other pay attention to sometimes painful experience. Is it worth it? Prov. 4:7 (NIV) says, "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."

Why is it worth it? Because "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Prov. 9:10). God is the source of all true Wisdom, which is ultimately the knowledge and understanding of His Truth.

Only those who are wise in what matters can truly appreciate the joy of knowing Him.

Truth is wisdom, pure and bright,
Shining with God's holy Light,
Lighting up each mortal way,
Guarding those whose feet might stray.

God's pure Wisdom cannot lie;
Nothing false is found on high.
When He speaks, as One Who knows,
In each listener wisdom grows.

He Who said, "I am the Truth,"
Walked in wisdom from His youth.
Seek you wisdom? Hear His call;
Seek His Kingdom first of all.

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