Proverbs 2:1-11, 1 John 2:1-17
Both our readings begin in the same way addressing us as my child, or my little children. Slightly condescending perhaps, or are we to approach these teachings with the curiosity, the wonder and the awe that little children approach the world? With open minds and open hearts, without judgement and without ego?
The thread that jumped out at me when pondering on these passages was that of wisdom and the putting on the mind of Christ. After all, proverbs are classed as part of the wisdom literature of the bible and 1 John speaks of walking as Jesus walked, and abiding in him, to do this one must put on the mind of Christ if we are to walk as he walked.
Wisdom and knowledge are different. Can I suggest that an interpretation of knowledge is that it comes from the world? All that we learn, process, accumulate whilst we are here – all that we absorb as we try and make sense of the world we are born into, is knowledge learned.
Our knowledge is driven by a need we have to understand and to make sense of our lives. Admirable, but motivated by our desire of control. If we understand something fully it means we can have control over it; we can wield this knowledge to categorise, order, rate and judge ourselves and others. Perhaps this is why God remains veiled in so much mystery – if we could fully comprehend him and his ways we could exert control and power over him – get him to do what we wanted, run things how we saw fit, like our very own genie in a bottle.
Instead, we have shadow where we would like to have light, uncertainty where we would like full clarity.
From Medieval times through to the enlightenment period we desired full knowledge, full control and full certainty of our world and our religion. But we came up short – we tried to fill our churches using doctrine and dogma, believe this or else, sign up to this way of thinking or you go to hell – using black and white thinking, also known as dual thinking or duality. We left no room for mystery or biblical wisdom; we squeezed the Holy Spirit out of the equation.
Knowledge can only take us so far.
Wisdom is different. Biblical wisdom is mysterious. It is Spirit led, deep and counter cultural. It is not grasped in a sound bite or a TED talk – it takes time, perseverance, and a willingness to pause in liminal space; a space where there is no clear logical answer, a space where we can’t reason things out, a deep space inhabited by God in the inmost parts of our souls.
Soloman tells us in Proverbs that we need an attentive ear, we need to incline or open our heart, to search with all the desire that we search for silver – the riches of the world, then God will give us wisdom.
The promise from God is that if we obey his commands – love him and love our neighbour as ourselves – then wisdom will come into our hearts.
We don’t have to be perfect before this happens – which is a relief for us all!
As John tells us, Jesus is on our side. He reminds us that our sins are forgiven through Jesus, he is our right hand man in Heaven. We are a forgiven and righteous lot in the eyes of God. Righteous meaning we are right-with-God. He loves us and wants to give us all the good stuff.
We are being warned however, that it will be tricky; the desires of the world, the rabbit holes we get sucked into, our wants and perceived needs can overwhelm us, blind us to the true goodness that God desires to give us.
The world is not a bad place – God made it and saw that it was good, very good. But we live in a culture that is always trying to lead us off track; the voices in our ears 24/7 whispering – ‘because you deserve it’, ‘it’s your right’,’ you’re better than them’, ‘she’s richer, prettier, more popular’ ,’ it’s not fair’ – so many negative voices crowd our minds.
But God is saying – hold on – I made you for better than this. Look at what I can offer you.
Rev’d Kia Pakenham 8th October 2023