Several men in the locker room of a private exercise club were talking when a cell phone laying on the bench rang. One man picked it up without hesitation and the following conversation ensued:
“Honey, It’s me.”
“I’m at the mall two blocks from the club. I saw a beautiful mink coat. It is absolutely gorgeous! Can I buy it? It’s only $1,500.”
“Well, OK, if you like it that much.”
“Thanks! Oh, and I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new models. I saw one I really liked. I spoke with the salesman, and he gave me a great price.”
“OK, but for that price I want it with all the options.”
“Great! Before we hang up, there’s something else. It might seem like a lot, but, well, I stopped by to see the real estate agent this morning and I saw the house we had looked at last year. It’s on sale! Remember? The beachfront property with the pool and the English garden?”
“How much are they asking?”
“Only $450,000, a magnificent price, and we have that much in the bank to cover it.”
“Well then, go ahead and buy it, but put in a bid for only $420,000, OK?”
“OK, sweetie. Thanks! I’ll see you later. I love you!”
“I love you, too.”
The man hung up, closed the phone’s flap, and raised it aloft, asking, “Does anyone know who this cell phone belongs to?”
If there is one lesson to learn from that story it is this: Be careful where you leave your phone.
Seriously though, that story does exemplify one principle for living with which we all can agree: Wisdom is something that readily eludes us, and we all need it.
In the New Testament, James, the brother of our Lord, asks a question that seems to be one that many are asking these days: “Who among you is wise and understanding?” (James 3:18).
In seeking to answer that question, notice first what he did not ask. James did not ask, “Who among you is a wise guy?” There are plenty of those around, aren’t there? And they would include the fictional fellow who picked up that phone in the story above. But where do we find real wisdom?
When asked that question, many people would simply say four words: “The Library of Congress.”
Carla Hayden (as of September 2016) serves as the 14th Librarian of Congress, overseeing the largest library in the world. The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800. In 1815, the library accepted 6,487 books from the library of Thomas Jefferson. Today’s Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 171 million items includes more than 40 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 74 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.
Hayden followed in the shoes of James Billington, who had served in that position since 1987. At one point, in the midst of managing this enormous collection, Billington commented on the scope of his job. He argued that it’s even more difficult for our nation to know what to do with all of this information. Describing the contemporary world as “an info-glut culture,” Billington asked a very probing question: “But have we become any wiser?”
When the Librarian of Congress asks a question such as that, it seems like it is a question we should take seriously. If I may, I would like to make four major observations about that question: First, there are 40 million cataloged books in the Library of Congress, but only one of them is the divinely inspired Word of God. Second, accumulating more and more information will never save us. My friends, you and I are saved only by the power of Christ through faith. Third, everything contained in the Library of Congress, and I mean every last paragraph in every one of the books or manuscripts, is but a drop in the bucket compared to the omniscience and wisdom of God. And fourth, if the whole point of our life is to live a life of wisdom, how do we indeed live a life of wisdom in our “info-glut” society and culture?
The answer, my friends, is found in the words of wise King Solomon: Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
True wisdom is only possible when it begins with a healthy respect for and fear of the Lord. It begins with God. Oh, and by the way, it ends with God as well. So, if you wish to be truly wise, you need to have a relationship with God that begins with Jesus Christ. And that relationship with Christ will make a definite difference in how you act and how you think.
James tells us what true wisdom looks like from a practical standpoint. He says that “…wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). That’s quite a challenge, isn’t it? But it is possible through the power of the Spirit living in all those who are Christ-followers in the real world today. So let me ask one final question for the week: Are there any truly wise people around?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]