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Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

WHAT MAKES SMART PEOPLE FOOLS

November 10, 2009 2 comments

His name was Nabal. We don’t know if he was smart. But we do know he was in the his-picture-by-fool-in-the-dictionary class of fools. Make that the thesaurus, in his case. His name, Nabal, literally means fool (thanks mom and dad!).

It wasn’t just his name that made Nabal a fool. And it wasn’t just that he acted foolishly that made him a fool (although it certainly didn’t hurt). What made Nabal the quintessential fool is one of his incredibly serious character flaws. It was one of Nabal’s servants who pointed out his fatal flaw: He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him (1 Samuel 25:17).

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We surely can sympathize with this servant’s frustration with his master. It’s bad enough dealing with a fool, but it’s a desperately hopeless situation to be dealing with a fool who will not listen to anyone. Ultimately, that’s why Nabal became the epitome of folly. Foolishness mixed with stubborn pride is a recipe for disaster.

It’s easy to be hard on Nabal. But it’s also oh so easy to be easy on ourselves. That’s unfortunate, considering that most of us have a hard time listening to advice. Especially when we think we already have the answer–when we have already figured out the decisions that should be made and the actions that must be taken. We feel that listening to voices other than our own is a waste of time and energy. But the reality is that not listening to these voices is an excess of pride and folly.

Perhaps those of us who typically feel like we have the answers would do well to remember that this stubborn certainty is precisely what makes smart people fools.

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

-Proverbs 15:22

WHY WISDOM IS NOT ENOUGH

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Before nap time Monday I was reading Haven the story about how Solomon, in classic wise-man-Solomon style, settled the dispute between the two mothers. This episode is intended to illuminate Solomon’s greatness, but it actually had the opposite impact on me. This story caused a nagging question to resurface in my mind: how is it possible for the wisest man to ever live to have gotten so off track? If Solomon ended up ensnared by idolatry and plagued by meaningless despair, what chance is there of a not-nearly-as-wise-as-Solomon guy like me doing any better?

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With this question fresh on my mind, I turned my attention to our church’s Daily Bible Reading Plan, which took me to the prophet Jeremiah. In my reading I came across this passage from Jeremiah 4:22 about the people of Judah: They are “wise”–in doing evil!

It seems to me, based on the examples of Judah and Solomon, that wisdom is no guarantee that the wrong path will be avoided. And even beyond that, if and when the wrong path is pursued, the wisdom that could have helped the wise one become exceptionally righteous instead aids him in becoming skillfully wicked–wise in doing evil.

So here’s the lesson Solomon’s and Judah’s tragic stories teach me. They teach me that wisdom can function either as a profitable virtue or as a devastating vice. That is, wisdom determines how far a person can go–not where that person will go. It promises that an individual will be good at something. Wisdom will either empower that individual to be a top-notch saint or a first-rate sinner–to either be wise in doing good or wise in doing evil. Whether wisdom functions as a virtue or a vice depends on what one does with the wisdom he or she has.

That’s not to say that wisdom isn’t incredibly important. It is. But it takes more than wisdom to be righteous.