The quality of wisdom
Regular Network Norfolk columnist James Knight looks the quality of wisdom, which he thinks stands out above other things to aspire to, as it is a quality with no boundaries.
The Bible speaks a lot about qualities we should aspire to have, such as love, kindness, generosity, charity, grace and patience - but there is one quality that I think stands out for a certain reason (and maybe for only this reason). That quality is wisdom - and it stands out because it seems to be a quality that has no barrier to how much we should desire it, and how much of it we can have. The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is dedicated to the quality of wisdom, and we find it aplenty in Job, Ecclesiastes and many of the Psalms too. In Proverbs we read:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.
There's no doubt that wisdom is highly regarded in the Bible, for very good reason. What occurred to me about wisdom, as distinct from the other qualities (grand as they are) is that one cannot ever have too much wisdom - it is one of those strange over-arching qualities that enriches all the other qualities, but also acts as a supporting strap when one uses those qualities well. When I started to ponder the notion that one cannot have too much wisdom, it heightened my excitement for a diligent search for more and more wisdom, because the logical corollary of this realisation is that one should be encouraged to tenaciously pursue more of God's wisdom, because by its very nature an excess of wisdom is only going to be beneficial. In fact, it doesn't really make much sense to talk of having too much wisdom, because wisdom seems to me to be a quality consistent with God's qualities (in Proverbs 8 we learn that wisdom is from God and is older than creation), so all talk of too much wisdom might be as misjudged as talking about having too much of God.
To see what I mean, consider the other qualities I mentioned, which although grand at their optimum level, can be spoiled in excess. Love is a marvellous quality; in fact we are told by St Paul that love is not only the greatest quality, but also that it never fails the person doing the loving. But it is possible to love too much, such as when a love for another person becomes so excessive that it predominates one's preoccupations over loving God, or when it elicits obsessive or addictive behaviour. Kindness is a marvellous quality; but it is possible to be too kind, such as when one's kindness allows one to be taken advantage of, or when it makes one irresponsible, or when it occurs in such excess that it encourages the recipient to behave self-centredly. Generosity is a lovely quality; but everyone knows it's possible to be too generous, such as when one is imprudent with money, or too generous towards someone while lacking a balanced view of how best to employ that generosity, or generous to the point that it induces people to take advantage of the one being over-generous. Charity is commendable - but it can be too excessive, such as when charitable offerings and activates impede the proper progress the beneficiaries require, or when one becomes too charitable for one's own good. Grace is an awesome quality; but it is possible to have too much grace, such as when in excess it leaves one susceptible to poorly judged beneficence, or when it allows one to be taken advantage of. Lastly, patience is a good quality; but it is possible to have too much patience, such as when it turns you into a procrastinator and slows your progression down to inertia.
Here, I think, is where wisdom differs in its very nature; it cannot be excessive because it is really about how we frame our understanding of the world, and of God - and I doubt one can understand either of those things too much. Wisdom is the kind of quality that will bootstrap love, kindness, generosity, charity, grace and patience. It's wisdom that teaches us that it's best to love at all times; it's wisdom that teaches us to look beyond being offended; it's wisdom that teaches us how to apply one's knowledge and intelligence in the world, be it in responding to clever arguments or in helping somebody else on their walk; it's wisdom that teaches us to not jump to conclusions; it's wisdom that teaches us to doubt, to look for evidence and to question everything, and to employ the right positive qualities wherever we can; and it's wisdom that enables us to gather experience and use it to become more Christ-like.
The great thing about wisdom is that God loves to give us more and more - it's only our not asking or our complacency that stops us having more. The Bible teaches us to pray persistently for more of the Godly qualities we should be trying to attain. In The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), we find that even an irascible judge ends up doing justice to the widow, thanks to her persistence - and that we are to consider how much truer this would be of our amazing God, who gives with outrageous love, grace and generosity. Let us be Christians that continue to seek more and more wisdom from God - as I feel assured that all we have to do is ask, and pursue it earnestly and faithfully.
James Knight is a long term contributor to the Network Norwich & Norfolk website and a local government officer based in Norwich.
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