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When did toughness become more admirable than wisdom?
Bible Speaks
By Rev. L. Althouse
May 7, 2006
Background Scripture: Proverbs 2 through 3. Devotional Reading: Proverbs 2:6-15.

During the recent primaries, two of the most hotly contested local races were for the offices of county judge and district attorney. The media were blanketed with political advertisements and I was disappointed that the one quality mentioned repeatedly was “toughness.” Each attempted to persuade voters that he was “tougher than thou.” Not once was the quality of “wisdom” mentioned. Not one touted himself as “wise.”

There are many Biblical references to those who dispense justice, but I have found none that mention “toughness.”

“Wisdom” and “equity” are most frequently indicated for those who love God. How strange that here in the so-called “Bible Belt” the Biblical standards are passed over in favor of an attribute never mentioned in scripture. “Tough” is not listed in my concordance and Jesus never included it in his gospel.

I looked in my dictionary and of the six entries I found for “tough” and related terms, I found nothing that was either generally admirable nor particularly Christian: “unyielding,” “stubborn,” “hardened,” “incorrigible,” “trying,” “troublesome,” “hard to bear, “severe,” “violent,” “vicious,” “rough” and “rowdy.”

So why has “toughness” become so desirable?

Fear of weakness
One answer is that many of us have a secret fear of being thought “weak.” We may compensate by acting “tough” and speaking roughly, usually profanely. Males are especially, but not uniquely, subject to this fear. But the teachings of Jesus emphasized inner strength through faith in God.

The “tough” person is concerned about his or her own strength, while the person of faith is focused on the strength of God.

In Ecclesiastes there is a poignant passage, 19:13-18. “There was a little city with a few men in it; and a great king came against it and besieged it … But there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city.”

And how did people respond? Much the same as we respond today: “Yet no one remembered that poor man.”

Ecclesiastes concludes: “But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heeded.”

In Proverbs we are called to make our ears “attentive to wisdom” and inclining our hearts “to understanding.” (2:2, 3)

Wisdom is the means whereby we can be “guarding the paths of justice …” (2:8), are delivered “from the way of evil” (2:12), and gain true happiness. (2:13)

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding …” (2:14)

Inclining your heart
There are three important facts about wisdom. First, we must have a receptive and teachable spirit. It requires “making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.” (2:1,2)

God does not force us to be wise, but he gives us every opportunity. The poor wise man of Ecclesiastes 19 was ignored by his countrymen. There is nothing more difficult then teaching someone something they think they already know. We may “know it all,” but still lack wisdom.

Secondly, we must value wisdom. “If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord…” (2:4)

If we were to truly desire wisdom as much as we desire new cars, expensive vacations, the latest technology and sheer power, we would find wisdom in proportion to that desire.

Third, the way of wisdom is generally not the way of violence. “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.” (3:31) Violence is the way of those who are not willing to trust God.

So, tell me why toughness? Why not wisdom?

This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.