Wisdom is one of those words we use all the time whose meaning we think we understand pretty clearly. But I wonder whether that’s really true. Basic dictionary definitions generally boil wisdom down to a cumulation of lifelong learning and the ability to take what you’ve garnered from that and apply it to future situations.
But I dunno. I mean, we have phrases like “wise beyond years” for a reason, and I suspect we all know plenty of folks of a certain age for whom wisdom seems an alien notion, at least based on what we can observe of their actions and behavior.
The quote from Confucius that illustrates this week’s topic suggests three methods by which wisdom is learned, reflection, imitation, and experience. While those seem hard to argue with, we could (and probably will) about the characterization each method as noblest, or easiest, or bitterest.
The Christian tradition that most of us have grown up with suggests a divine source for wisdom. For example, in the Epistle of James (1:5) the author writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,” and later (in 3:17) describes the wisdom that comes from heaven as “pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, suggests there’s wisdom and then there’s wisdom: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight …” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19). The issue here is that Paul was scolding his flock for being too focused on the supposed wisdom of their human leaders and losing sight of who they should really be following, Jesus.
But then again, as this on-the-mark cartoon from Man Martin points out, we often have trouble hewing to that wisdom. Maybe that’s why Paul has to “keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better,” (Ephesians 1:17).
So we’re going to try to puzzle out this wisdom thing in our virtual conversation this week. To start with, think about the wisest person you’ve ever met. Who were, or are, they, and what made them wise in your eyes? Where do you think that person’s wisdom came from? What did you learn from them, and how successful are you in applying in your own life? How would you compare the methods of gaining wisdom found in the examples above from the Confucian and Christian traditions? Are they compatible with each other, or is there something fundamentally different about the way in which they approach the idea of wisdom? And fundamentally, what do you think wisdom really is, and what are the sources of it in your own life?
Join us, virtually, for the conversation beginning tomorrow evening at 7 pm. Read down for information on how to join the discussion from the comfort of your own home!
St. Mary’s In-The-Hills is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Virtual Pub Theology
Time: Sep 22, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 990 0914 5224
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