I like books. A lot. My wife says that it’s “a problem” and that I need to “seek professional guidance” regarding my book-buying obsession. I always say that I love books because they are a font of wisdom. But, as we all know, book-learning often does not beget wisdom.
Wisdom begins with fear. So, I realize that this idea isn’t super-popular. However, there it is: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 110:10; Pr. 1:7; 9:10). For me, this has always been a curious starting place. Isn’t fear bad? Not necessarily. What we fear determines what we worship—worship being what we actually do with our thoughts and emotions and body. If I fear being alone, I will do everything in my power to make sure I have companionship. If I fear not having enough money, I will do whatever it takes to make sure I get and keep all that I can. If I fear what people think of me, then I will do whatever it takes to manage my image. We are fearful-beings; we will fear something. The Bible simply tells us to fear God, the only Being worthy of our fear.
Once I get that first fear right, other desires and longings shift into their proper place. I can love others without fear it won’t be equally reciprocated. I can be generous with the resources God has given our family without fear of financial calamity. I can live in front of others without fear of what they will think of me or my wardrobe choices. I am free to live boldly and without shame because I fear God alone.
Wisdom leads to flourishing. And not just my own. It says in Proverbs that “when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices” (11:10, emphasis mine). This is beautifully true. When wise people prosper and flourish, all of those around them rejoice. And they rejoice because wise people are generous with what they have and give freely. They are wise with their resources, understanding that “whoever is kind to the poor, lends to the LORD” (19:17). Sometimes, we can get sideways with this and think that extravagant giving is dangerous, foolhardy, footloose, perhaps verging on prodigality. And so it is. But it is the path of wisdom, for God sees what is done and is deeply pleased (Matt. 6:4). Such giving is profoundly wise.
I see this in our staff members and volunteers here at the Clinic. As they strive for justice for immigrant victims of domestic violence or homeless youth or people losing their homes to foreclosure, they give so much of themselves to see our clients rejoice and flourish in security. They take the education and resources that they’ve been given and use it all to see our community exuberantly shout for joy. And our staff members themselves flourish in the process too.
Wisdom looks like the cross.To be wise is to love. And not some sappy, saccharine Valentine’s Day love. It is a sacrificial, super-abundant love that does not know when to quit. The Bible says that Christ is the “power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24) and that we are to submit to and sacrifice for each other out of fear of Christ (Eph. 5:21). Christ’s love and power and wisdom are shown through the scars on his hands and feet. As we revere him, we become wise, and thus, more sacrificial.
“Wisdom rarely comes without scars.” And not just the paper-cut scars from flipping through books on the “good life.” No. These are real scars, sustained during this walk of pain. Our scars lead to deeper wisdom, to be sure. But it is the scars of Christ, His wounds, which show us the ultimate wisdom: the wisdom of a crucified and risen King, who rescues us so that we may be part of the rescue of the world.
May we fear God, seek the flourishing of our contexts, and look to Christ’s cross, the ultimate depiction of God’s wisdom and sacrifice on our behalf.
Until Justice and Peace embrace,