Rev. L. Althouse
May 14, 2006
Background Scripture: Proverbs 8 through 9. Devotional Reading: Proverbs 8:10-21.
Before you stumble over that word “simple,” remember that it has many different meanings. My dictionary lists 26, from “easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.” to “an herb or other plant used for medicinal purposes.”
So, when wisdom challenges us, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here,” it is not necessarily insulting.
The term “simple” is translated from the Hebrew word pathah, meaning “to open.” So the simple person may be one who is open to any influence. It is good to be “open,” because God may not be able to get through to someone who has closed the door of the mind. But, if we are “open,” we must not allow ourselves to be led astray. What we need, then, is an open mind and the wisdom to sort the truth from the lies.
Although Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code, is admittedly fiction, many people have been persuaded that the Church has hidden some dark secrets which, if uncovered, would undermine the faith. Brown’s scenario is hardly new; for many centuries there have been all sorts of conspiracy theories regarding different aspects of the faith. In the early centuries of the Church there were groups that focused, not on the gospel that was proclaimed, but on “secrets” that could be known by only the chosen few.
God does not hide
Yet the Gospel is predicated on God’s choice to make himself known - not hidden. Even before his coming, the Old Testament touted wisdom as the product of God’s desire to reveal himself and his will.
Wisdom was denied people, not because God willed it, but as the consequence of choosing to remain unreceptive to God’s wisdom. So, in Proverbs 8:1, we are asked, “Does not wisdom call, Does not understanding raise her voice?” (Wisdom is often personified as female). “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men. O simple ones, learn prudence; O foolish men, pay attention. (8:4-6)
We need to distinguish carefully between wisdom and intelligence. According to current theory, we are created with a certain capacity for mental acuity. That is what I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) is supposed to measure. But a limit on intelligence is not necessarily a limitation on wisdom. Intelligence has to do with the capacities of the mind, whereas wisdom has to do with the understanding to make good judgments. The term “wise” comes from an Indo-European root meaning “to see” and thus “to know,” the same root of the word “vision.” So a person may have limited intelligence, but still may be very wise. Correspondingly, a person may have superior intelligence without displaying superior wisdom.
Presumably, intelligence may be tested scientifically, whereas wisdom is tested experientially. In Matthew 11:19, Jesus, noting that he is regarded as a fool (“Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”) says, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
It is the good and the true that results from wisdom that is “the proof of the pudding.” Or as Jesus said on another occasion, “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Mt. 7:20)
A person may be of average or even low intelligence and still be prudent instead of reckless, righteous instead of wicked, straight instead of crooked, humble instead of proud. Those are the fruits of wisdom (8:5, 6, 8, 13, 19). Intelligence does not guarantee happiness, but “Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” (8:33, 34)
Wisdom, unlike intelligence, is not limited by genes, race, gender or class. We are or are not intelligent, but wisdom is not what we are, but what we do with what we are.
This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.