Seek it like silver
The time to pursue wisdom is before we need it
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I remember exactly where I was when the Word of the Lord came to me: I was washing dishes.
It was almost exactly two years ago when my telephone rang. A prominent friend called to ask me to take sides in an argument—publicly. It wasn’t my argument, and I’d only heard his side of the story. But he was a dear friend who had racked up a track record of being right about most things. So I said yes and hung up the phone.
Not long after, I was scrubbing a plate in the kitchen sink when the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart: “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”
The words of Proverbs 26:17 lit up in my heart, like a sunbeam breaking through clouds. I put down my sponge, picked up my phone, and called my friend back. He was wise, no doubt, but not as wise as the wisest man who ever lived. Quoting Solomon, I recused myself from the argument and that was that. But I might not have, had it not been for what has become a 15-year daily diet of wisdom literature.
Regarding wisdom, I spent 650ish words in our last issue plucking motes from progressives’ eyes. This issue, I thought I’d spend 650ish more plucking beams from my own.
Conservatives, by definition, conserve tradition and wisdom, both human and divine. But Christian conservatives are commanded not only to conserve wisdom but to seek it. Not just when we need it, but avidly and constantly. We are to search her out, embrace her, guard her, and prize her above all earthly things.
Solomon wrote of wisdom that we are to “seek it like silver.”
For many years, I spent more time seeking silver than wisdom. But just as wealth accumulated gradually lasts (Proverbs 13:11), spiritual wisdom behaves in much the same way. We must gather it slowly, intentionally, and through experience. And we tend to accumulate it in approximate proportion to the amount of silver in our hair. (Although in some, the inverse seems true.)
I confess that this preparation has often felt like a burden. I’ve read through the 31 chapters of Proverbs nearly every month since 2008, reading the chapter that corresponds with the date. For much of that time, when I got to the days on which whole chapters focused on wisdom—say, Proverbs 8 on the eighth day of every month—I dreaded it a little.
“Yes, yes,” I would think: “Wisdom is great. … Make sure you get wisdom. … I get it. Now can we get to something practical?”
But the more silver streaked my hair, the more I understood that nothing on earth is more practical. What else is there in all creation that can keep me as surely between life’s guardrails as I hurry down the highway of life?
And yet, this demands caution, for wherever Wisdom is, Folly may also be found. As Wisdom calls aloud at crossroads, at the head of noisy streets, and in the markets, Folly “takes a seat on the highest places of town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way” (Proverbs 9).
In other words, everywhere, all the time, in the course of any ordinary day—while, say, washing dishes—Wisdom and Folly are both calling out to us. When we do not consistently search the Scriptures, Folly can masquerade as Wisdom. As Pastor Colin Smith points out on his website, “The men who nailed Jesus to the cross didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.”
Some decisions require long deliberation. But some turn on a moment and can change the course of a life. The foolish decisions lead to suffering. Those based on Scriptural wisdom—like not involving myself in an argument not my own—bear fruit better than fine gold.
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