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Chris Carpenter
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Wisdom for Sale

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

-- Henry David Thoreau

As I was praying recently I came to the realization that I inevitably ask the Lord for wisdom in one form or another, whether it is for me, or as it pertains to the needs of others.  Then it occurred to me that there doesn’t seem to be a proven way to quantify whether I have been truly wise in a situation.

I looked to the dictionary for assistance and found that wisdom is nothing more than accumulated philosophic or scientific learning.  Ok, so if I am a wise person I guess I have the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships through the use of science.  Some would call that knowledge or insight into a given topic.  I don’t know about you but I don’t think wisdom requires us to wear a lab coat.

I know wisdom is a critically important virtue as it is mentioned in the Bible 126 different times in one form or another.  Yet how do we truly know whether we have been or are being wise in a given set of circumstances?  There doesn’t seem to be an official written checklist or set of rules to tell me whether I have used great wisdom in a given situation, although I am sure there are scores of books on the market offering me “Five Keys to a Wiser You”, or “Three Steps to Using Wisdom in Every Situation”.

I have a colleague here at who is fond of saying, “That’s wisdom on your part,” when I have opted not to run a story on this very Web site due to some volatile element lurking within it.  He calls it wisdom, I call it common sense.

Out of curiosity, I recently took my quest for wisdom to the street on which I live, a video store, a local Wal-Mart, and my Sunday school class.  In each case, I asked individuals where I could find wisdom or where I could buy some wisdom.  Here are some of their rather interesting responses:

Walking down my street the other day, I spotted my neighbor Floyd out working in his yard.  As I often do, I sauntered over to say hello but instead of exchanging our usual pleasantries I greeted him with a probing question.

”Hey Floyd, do you know where I can buy some wisdom?”

A bit perplexed, Floyd replied, “Say that again?”

”Where can I buy some wisdom?”

Floyd leaned on his rake, furrowed his brow intensely, and then removed his baseball cap for dramatic effect.  It was obvious I really had him thinking.

”Chris, I don’t really know.  I’ve never heard of it.  Is that some sort of lawn fertilizer?  I mean I’ve heard of wisdom, my wife says I lack for it all the time.  But I don’t know who carries the wisdom you are looking for.  But you know what they say, ‘when in doubt, try Wal Mart.’”

”That’s good advice Floyd, thanks.”

So, it was off to Wal Mart.  As I entered the store I made a snap decision to go to the live bait aisle.  If anyone had wisdom to dispense it was my brothers in bait and tackle.  Upon my approach I saw a gentleman dipping live minnows out of a watery transparent tank.  I waited patiently for him to finish this painstaking task before hitting him with such a peculiar question.  Finally, the moment arrived.

”Excuse me sir.  I was wondering if you could tell me where I can buy some wisdom?”

”Wisdom, you say?” answered Dennis (at least that’s what his name tag said).

”Yes, wisdom.”

Without hesitation Dennis quipped, “Aisle 27, over by the dog food.”

Finally, someone who knows how to find wisdom!  After thanking him profusely I meandered over to Aisle 27.  Dennis the bait attendant must have misunderstood me.  He had guided me to a section featuring windshield wiper blades.  I shrugged and grabbed a pair for a rainy day.

On my way home I stopped at my video store to rent a movie to watch later that evening.  Upon entering, I decided to continue my experiment.  Approaching the counter I asked my video associate Jack whether he knew where I could find wisdom.  Without hesitation, he became a whirlwind of tapping computer keys and database determination.

”Ah yes, Wisdom.  The 1986 film starring Demi Moore and Emilio Estevez,” exclaimed Jack.  “According to the computer, the plot summary says, ‘Unable to find work after a past felony, graduate John Wisdom (Estevez) and his girlfriend (Moore) embark on a cross-country bank-robbing spree in order to aid American farmers (Just call him Robin Hood).’  We have one copy.  Try looking over in the drama section.”

”That was a terrible movie but thanks anyway, Jack.”

I rented “Chronicles of Narnia” instead.  If any movie could display wisdom in liberal doses I figured this movie was it.  C.S. Lewis was a very adept scholar and even better writer.

In a last ditch effort, I decided to ask my Sunday school class where I could find wisdom.  I waited for just the right moment to unleash my penetrating, mind bending question for the ages.

Just after prayer time and just before the lesson I asked, “Say, does anyone know where I can find some wisdom?”

Blank stares.

Finally my wife offered, “Honey, we don’t have time for questions like that today.”

Confused by her statement, I replied, “We just prayed that the Lord would give it to us and now you are telling me we don’t have time for it?”

”There is your answer,” chimed in Maggie.  “The Lord gives us wisdom and we constantly seek it through His Word.”

Ding -- ding -- ding.

Simply put wisdom is not quantifiable.  There is no set formula but we can be assured that God uses a variety of life experiences to shape the way we work through situations that requires us to draw from our accumulated past.  God may be leading us through a trying, uncomfortable situation today to forge a sense of wisdom within us to share with others in the tomorrows that lay ahead.

The Bible has a great deal to say about wisdom.  For example, in Proverbs 1:7 it is written, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

One of the most practical books in the New Testament and the Bible for that matter is James.  Early Christians faced two major problems in their lives:  how to handle trials and how to overcome the temptations of sin.  Amazingly, these are two massive stumbling blocks that Christians are still battling with today.  With each situation that James describes in his five chapters, he always presents God’s solution.  And he has a wonderful solution for gaining wisdom.

In Chapter one, verse five, James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Our wisdom may conform with God’s wisdom or it may run contrary to the mind of God.  Knowledge in itself may not bring truth.  Our thoughts, built on man’s theories and understandings, often lead to confusion and wrong conclusions when they are not subject to God’s truth.  If we combine our energies and efforts with the wisdom and ways of God, we will experience clarity and thought and direction in our search to be truly wise.*

Now that is wisdom.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.  And in all your getting, get understanding.  -- Proverbs 4:7

* Portions contained within this article from the Transformer Study Bible.

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