WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

ECCLESIASTES: PART TEN

                                                PRESENTED ON 05-17-14

        

       Ecclesiastes 7:11-12:  Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.  Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

       If anyone understood the value of wisdom it was Solomon. He compares its value to an inheritance.  We all know the value of an inheritance.  An inheritance can make a big difference as to how one does in life.  Siblings often fight over inheritances because inherited property and funds can virtually change one’s lifestyle.  Inherited money can be used to pay for a college education, a better car, a new house and many other amenities of life.  Inheritances are treasured and Solomon is virtually saying that wisdom is to be treasured in the same manner.

       Solomon says wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter.  We all know what having money does.  Money shelters one from poverty and from want of the material things of life.  Likewise, wisdom shelters one from the mistakes of life that can cause poverty and want.  Wisdom is the key to avoiding many of the troubles of life.  Through wisdom and knowledge you can avoid disease and experience greater heath and wellbeing.  Through wisdom and knowledge you can avoid financial problems and provide better for your family.  Through wisdom and knowledge you can avoid poor social, marital and parental relationships. In the Proverbs Solomon is seen as placing a great deal of emphasis on wisdom, understanding and knowledge.   

       Proverbs 4:7: Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

       Proverbs 8:10: Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.

       Solomon places a premium on wisdom as being supreme.  He instructs that we should seek understanding at all costs.  He sees knowledge as being more valuable than choice gold.  These are strong sentiments in regard to wisdom understanding and knowledge.  Before we discuss these attributes further, we need to identify how these attributes relate to each other.  

       Knowledge is simply to know something.  Knowledge comes first.  To understand something you have to have knowledge of it.  You can’t understand what you have no knowledge of.  Understanding is very closely tied to the knowledge of something.  If you have knowledge of something it means you know about it.  However, you may know something without understanding it.

       Understanding has to do with comprehending the dynamics of what you have knowledge of.   Such understanding can be complete or it can be partial. As you can see, knowledge and understanding are almost two sides of the same coin.  

       Wisdom is different.  You can have knowledge and understanding of something and not use it in a proper and fruitful way.  Wisdom involves how you use the knowledge and understanding you have. Wisdom is to properly apply what you know and understand. Wisdom is to use what you know and understand to facilitate the best possible outcome.

       While these three attributes of human cognition are closely tied together, they don’t always appear to work together.  You can have knowledge of something and not understand it very well.  You can understand the knowledge you have but fail to apply it properly which is to fail to use such understanding with wisdom.   The goal is to have knowledge, understanding and wisdom working together to produce a positive result.  

       I have knowledge of what a computer is.  That knowledge includes understanding the basic functions of a computer which allows me to use a computer to accomplish certain tasks. However, my knowledge and understanding of a computer is limited.  If it crashes, I don’t know how to fix it and I don’t try to fix it.  I take it to a computer guy who has a lot more understanding about computers than I do.  That is using wisdom in relationship to my knowledge and understanding of my computer.  

       We all have knowledge about a lot of things and various levels of understanding of the things we have knowledge about.  How we exercise wisdom in using and applying our knowledge and understanding can go a long way in determining the quality and even the length of our lives.  It can also be a vital dynamic in how we relate to God and our fellow man.  Solomon has a great deal to say about knowledge, understanding and wisdom. The Proverbs were virtually written for the purpose of gaining knowledge, understanding and wisdom.  

       Proverbs 1:1-2: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;

       Solomon teaches that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).  We know that to fear God is to recognize His sovereignty over our lives   To recognize the sovereignty of God is to recognize his authority to establish standards of behavior that we are to follow. That is the starting point for knowledge.  As I pointed out in a previous sermon in this series, to fear God is to hate the things God hates and to embrace the things God has established as righteousness.    

       Proverbs 8:13: To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

       If we begin with the knowledge of who God is and understand the implications of such knowledge, then everything else we do should flow from that knowledge and understanding.  But it all begins with recognizing that the foundation of knowledge, understanding and wisdom comes from God.

       Proverbs 2:6: For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

       Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

       As I have already said, wisdom shelters one from many difficulties in life. Solomon gives many examples of this in the proverbs.  

       Proverbs 2:12-17: Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways,  who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,  whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.

       Solomon shows how the exercise of wisdom will protect you from behaving contrary to righteousness.  The exercise of wisdom allows for making informed decisions.  Wisdom involves consideration of the consequences of one’s behavior. So much behavior is reactionary. We often emotionally react to a situation rather than carefully considering the potential consequences of our behavior.  

       Road rage is a good example of this.  Just the other day on television they showed a driver who was dissatisfied with something another driver did and tried to run the other driver off the road.  Well, he succeeded in running the other driver off the road but also ended up flipping his own vehicle causing much damage and also physical injuries.  Not exactly an expression of wisdom.  

       Wisdom involves the consideration of consequences.  It is recognition of cause and effect.  Wisdom also involves a willingness to seek advice and objectively consider such advice in making a decision.  While it is important to carefully evaluate the advice we receive as to its usefulness and applicability, it is a dynamic of wisdom to not be too proud to seek the advice of others rather than think we have all the answers on a given issue.  

       Proverbs 13:10: Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

       That pride breeds quarrels is well established.  We all know people who think they know it all and will not listen to the advice of others.  When confronted with advice from others, they will brush it off as inconsequential or they will quarrel with you in an effort to show how wrong you are and how right they are.  Such quarrels are often devoid of objective consideration of the advice being offered.  On the other side of the coin, we probably all know people who are all too eager to give advice even when such advice is not being sought after or wanted.  This also is showing a lack of wisdom. 

       It is important to make sure that the person to whom we are giving advice is actually soliciting advice from us. He or she may just want us to listen and be a good friend and simply may be seeking understanding, empathy, and compassion. Don't assume that everyone who comes to you with a problem is seeking advice for how to handle the problem. We may have some insight into the problem being shared with us but we really need to listen attentively to a person so that we thoroughly understand the situation. Only then are we in a position to with wisdom offer advice  Even then it is best not to offer advice unless we are asked to do so.

       It is a great honor to be asked for advice, but it is also a big responsibility. Good advice can help people make sound decisions or find the right path in life, while bad advice can have disastrous consequences.  Great care must be given in both the giving and receiving of advice. In this respect, I ran across a protocol for the giving of advice that I thought demonstrated good use of wisdom and was worth the time to share with you.

       #1: Listen to the person asking you for advice. Every situation is unique, so never assume you know all you need to know about a particular problem or situation. Listen carefully to the person who wants advice, and learn as much as you possibly can about the situation being brought to your attention.  If you need clarification, ask questions. Being an active listener will not only help you give good advice, it will also increase the chances that the person will take your advice.

       #2:  Put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Try to imagine yourself in his or hers situation. If you've been in a similar situation, think about what you learned, but don't rely solely on your experiences to give advice.  Imagine that you are giving yourself advice for the unique circumstances that the other person is facing.  That will make things a lot more personal and provide a better perspective.

       #3: Think about the consequences of taking your advice. While you're at it, think about the consequences of not taking your advice. If there's no significant difference between the results of those two options, your advice might not be bad, but it may not be useful either.  You must also try to determine the difficulty of following through on the action you might offer. If your advice can be envisioned to lead to a worse result than maybe doing nothing, you advice probably is bad.

          Take your time. When possible, think long and hard about all the possible courses of action and consider the pros and cons (or the benefits and costs) of each. This is especially important for more complex problems. Think about both the short term and long term consequences of your advice. Very important decisions are usually very important because of their long term effects. Think as far down the road as possible.

       Try to empathize. Many matters require sensitivity and thoughtfulness. If you really try to put yourself in the other person's shoes, as mentioned in #2, empathy will probably develop naturally. Even so, be very careful about how you word your advice and be sensitive to the other person's feelings and emotional state. Giving advice is more than a logical exercise. It usually involves helping a person sort through conflicting emotions as much as conflicting choices.

       #4:  Brainstorm with the person. Sometimes there is no clear cut right answer to a problem. In this case, try to help the person mull over all the alternatives so that he or she can reach a conclusion together with you or on their own. Even for very simple questions, it can be beneficial to help the person develop his or her own advice, if only for the reason that he or she is more likely to take it.

       #5: Be honest. If your advised course of action has potential drawbacks, tell the person about them. If you don't really feel qualified or knowledgeable enough about something to give advice on it, be honest and say you don’t know what the best solution to the problem is.  The goal should be to lead the person to making a wise decision that they believe in and are comfortable with.  Don’t try to be a salesman and sell them on your idea as if it is the only solution.

       #6: Set a good example. If you advise one thing but do the opposite, your advice will be seen as phony and hypocritical. This was a major problem with the Pharisees of Christ’s day.  They instructed the people to do one thing and they did just the opposite.  This is a common problem.  This is what leads to distrust. If you do as you say, however, people will be more likely to respect your advice.

       # 7: Understand that the person may not take your advice. Just because someone asks for your advice, they are not obligated to take it. Realize that the other person almost always knows more about their particular situation and desires than you do, so you can never be sure that your advice is really the best for them. Understand that people will sometimes ask advice just in order to bounce ideas off of you, and don't be surprised if a person rejects even good advice and decides to make his or her own mistake. Live with it, and let the person live with his or her decision and hopefully learn from it.  It’s the old adage of leading a horse to water but not being able to make him drink.  Don’t try to make him drink.  He has to make that decision on his own.

       Proverbs 19:11: A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

       Earlier I shared with you the incident I recently saw on the evening news where a driver ran another driver off the road because of some real or imaged offense.  The wise thing to do would have been to ignore the real or imaged offense and simply drive on.  A great deal of trouble could have been avoided.  Even when there is an egregious offense committed, it is the exercise of wisdom to properly evaluate the offence before taking any kind of action.  Overlooking an offense and not retaliating can avoid a great deal of potential trouble.

       It is common to human nature to want to retaliate, even over the slightest real or imaged offense.  I say real or imaged because often times a supposed offense is only imaged and when such offense is carefully evaluated, it often turns out to be nothing of significance.  This is where wisdom comes in.  To exercise wisdom is to properly evaluate a situation before embarking on a course of action.  We humans tend to jump to conclusions.  Wars are fought because somebody jumped to a conclusion.  We jump to conclusions with our spouses, children, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, church members and even our pet animals.  I have to wonder how many dogs have been blamed for a missing pair of reading glasses only to discover that they were mislaid by the dog’s owner.  

       As Solomon expressed, “a man’s wisdom gives him patience”. It does so because he doesn’t rush to judgement.  He considers all the dynamics of a situation before taking action.   

       Ecclesiastes 7:19:  Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.

       Wisdom is an attribute that appears to be sadly lacking among many of the current day rulers of not only cites, but counties, states and the country as a whole. Wise men and women are often hard to come by.  A truly wise leader will look out for the welfare of those he governs and make decisions based on what is in the best interests of those governed.  By best interests I don’t necessarily mean what the governed want.  Leaders often try to give people what they want and in so doing buy their votes.    

       A wise leader will carefully evaluate what the people want and determine both short and long term benefits.  A wise leader will carefully look at all the dynamics of a given proposal or demand and objectively consider all the dynamics associated with an issue so an informed decision can be made.  A person who takes this approach will often achieve great results and will become more powerful.  Solomon certainly became very powerful because of his exercise and display of wisdom.   

       1 Kings 10:23-24: King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.

       We see in Scripture a great deal of emphasis placed on obtaining and displaying wisdom.  We see it here in Ecclesiastes and in the Proverbs of Solomon. We see the writer of the Psalms extolling wisdom and showing how it is fundamental to a right relationship with God.

       Psalm 111:10:  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (NIV).

       The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever (KJV).

       As we saw in Proverbs 9:10, it is the fear of YHWH that is the beginning of wisdom.  The Psalmist expands on this by saying they that do His commandments have a good understanding.  At the beginning of today’s sermon we identified what knowledge, understanding and wisdom are.

       Knowledge is simply to know something.  Knowledge comes first.  To understand something you have to have knowledge of it.  You can’t understand what you have no knowledge of.  If you have knowledge of something it means you know about it.  However, you may know something without understanding it.  Understanding has to do with comprehending the dynamics of what you have knowledge of.  Such understanding can be complete or it can be partial. Wisdom involves how you use the knowledge and understanding you have. Wisdom is to properly apply what you know and understand. Wisdom is to use what you know and understand to facilitate the best possible outcome.

       Many people have knowledge of the commandments of God.  Many people understand what they mean.  However, many of these same people don’t obey them.  They don’t obey them because they fail to fear God and by not fearing God they don’t have the wisdom to recognize the significance and value of the behavioral standards God has given to mankind.    

       The fear of the Lord is truly the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of wisdom because it is the recognition of who God is and what He expects of his human creation.  To fear God is to recognize His sovereignty which translates into responding to the way of righteousness he wants for us to experience. To seek and have wisdom is to fear God and keep his commandments.  That is what Solomon and David understood.  Neither of them practiced this wisdom perfectly.  Neither do we.  But this should be our daily goal.  This should be our daily focus.  Let us strive to exercise wisdom in all we do. 

PART ELEVEN