Archive for November, 2012

The “No Matter What” Part of Wisdom

November 23, 2012

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.  Ecclesiastes 8:6.

 

In the place misery and hardship hit us the hardest and longest is where wisdom’s rubber meets the road.  It’s easy to be “wise” when we live in isolation (wise man or woman on a mountain somewhere in the Himalayas) or life is going so good with no disasters in sight; it’s quite another when tragedy strikes.  Wisdom often isn’t necessarily a given for those who have life going their way, rather its biggest impact is for the time when everything seems to be against us and we’re floundering.

The above text speaks to a person who sticks with a king though the decisions this leader makes create a bad atmosphere or go against all wisdom.  While a person is going through heartache or misery, they still have to live and cope with the world as they find it.  Not every situation allows for either a quick solution or any kind of mutually beneficial resolution.  What we know in retrospect is not what we know without experience.  Even the idea that somehow we should be able to know what only the experience of the now will teach is a fool’s paradise.  Hindsight always plays “what if” no matter what the circumstances faced.  The guilt we all feel when we can’t control the outcome may be palpable and real, yet unrealistic in the grand scheme of things.

Solomon points out that a king’s word is supreme (see why in my previous post) so fighting such power does no good.  Timing based on wisdom becomes the key here to knowing when to act and when to wait.  Yet this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  In my own lifetime I’ve seen bad decisions bring profit, flying in the face of history and all conventional logic.  And, if the truth be known, it wasn’t the decisions themselves which brought the profit but the luck of the draw—that old time and chance philosophy.  The scariest part, of course, is that those involved in the bad decision(s) declare the outcome as justification for continued bad choices, again defying all commonsense.

Some decisions, unfortunately, take a generation or so to see any returns on the investment.  Like in the case of Hezekiah with the Babylonian envoys who came to the Jerusalem to understand why their clocks (sundials) went backwards (read this story in Isaiah 38, 39).  His decision to show off his wealth instead of declaring God’s bounty and grace resulted in his country being a target for the Babylonian armies a few generations later.  What’s so disheartening about this story is his attitude of “at least it won’t happen in my lifetime.”

With this idea firmly in mind, it’s no wonder we see some pretty bad behavior from his successor and son, Manasseh, who is reputed to be one of the most wicked kings in Jewish history.  (His story is remarkable in that later he repented and turned back to God who restored him to the throne.)

We humans love to kick the can of consequences down the road for our immediate gratification.  For instance, no one in their right mind would declare the cars of yesteryear clean burning and non-polluting, which simply means what we are not able to breath and makes us sick if we take in too much of it (carbon monoxide) can’t be good our world.  Yet we hear people arguing that it hasn’t really affected the atmosphere.  Now I’m not a doomsday prophet or anything of that sort, I just believe in commonsense.  If we can’t stand behind a vehicle and breathe normally without getting either nauseous or passing out, then having a 100,000,000 of these things our roads going 24/7 has to do something.  Not to mention all the fuel burning in our fireplaces or keeping our electricity on.

I’m not in any way defending or decrying global warming fanatics, what I am saying is we can’t abuse our world without consequences of some sort.  I don’t know what effect all this pollution has on our planet, but it can’t be good.  Denying the harm is both silly and dangerous.  It takes thoughtful people to invent things like this, granted, but it also takes thoughtful people to build devices and machinery which operate safely and with environmental wisdom.  The wind farms all over the place displace wildlife and hurt birds; coal has already shown its toxic side; solar is awesome but it takes acres and acres of panels to equal just a small portion of what coal and water dams do easily.

Fiscally our country is kicking the can down the road, which will create a huge disaster for our children or theirs.  You can’t overspend and over borrow then expect to get off with a free pass.  And by saying this I’m definitely not defending the Republican viewpoint of the world nor will I condemn it.  In this matter of spiritual truth their view is fairly immaterial.

Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified by her deeds.”  And His wisdom is being proved out in the real world constantly.  A man who loves will continue to do without or without the permission of his king, family, friends or any other entity which holds power over his life.  And make no mistake, other people hold power over us whether we admit it or not.  Anyone in business can tell you how hard it is to get a start up off the ground.  The sacrifices are tremendous, the advantages very few in the beginning, and the pay off costly even in the long run.  If no one comes to a market to buy, the market will cease to exist, thus proving we cannot survive without one another.

A king is simply a man trusted to rule over the people he serves.  That last word is vital to understanding the best way to see power of any sort:  those in charge do so to serve others not themselves.  Unfortunately, too often those in power either live to please themselves or believe in some god-awful philosophy or ethic which makes them force their “good” down the throats of all—much of the time at the pain of death or confiscation of the “opposition’s” property.

Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar; Joseph served under Pharaoh; Esther became the wife of the king of Persia…Time and again wisdom has been served by those who would not back away from the unpleasant, though it cost them dearly.  Those mentioned here are but a fraction of the biblical heroes and heroines who served God despite all odds.  They influenced Hebrew history because they stuck with their place instead of running away from the awful circumstances they found themselves in.  The message here is clear:  We cannot desert our nation, work, family or friends just because we find sinners there.

We are the salt of the earth.  What does salt do?  It flavors and preserves.  Wars have been fought over rights to salt; whole nations have been destroyed by other nations coveting their salt sources.  Jesus used this parable as an illustration to tell us how valuable we are and to stress that we are the flavor of God in the world set not only to make it palatable but to preserve it.  If the world loses the flavor of His love (which is the essence of His holiness), it will be destroyed as too evil to exist.  I believe this truth is one of the reasons holding back the winds of strife right now.  Many Christians somehow have come to believe they must create heaven on earth through earthly government but the fact is our very lives are salt which preserve the people of earth’s life.

So do not be in a hurry to leave the presence of those on earth, for according to our Master we are the reason it hasn’t been destroyed.  Don’t be in a hurry to leave an unpleasant situation for God can use us anywhere.  Be a light in a dark place.  It’s a waste of time to turn on a light in a well lighted room.  It’s much better to shine where the light will do more good.

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Don’t Be In Such A Hurry To Walk Away

November 5, 2012

Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence.  Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases.  Ecclesiastes 8:3.

Solomon warns us not to be in a hurry to leave the presence of a ruler for they do as they please.  There are good reasons for this:  1) who will influence them differently if all they have around them are “yes” men and women?  2) What if this particular ruler is different and truly needs our perspective to make a wise decision?   3)  What if the only voice of reason is yours?

We can’t guarantee our influence or the outcome, but if we quit the game, we lose by default.  If we continue playing the game, we might lose anyway but at least we put in our best effort.  I personally don’t want to live with the former as a memory over the latter because on my death bed I want to know I did my best to live for what I believed in.  We who follow Jesus know the Way to Life.  If we refuse to live in the world and participate as a part of its journey, we refuse to be the salt and light our Master told us we should be.  Our witness is not about preaching with words but living examples of righteousness, kindness and truth.

            Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.  For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.  Ecclesiastes 8:5, 6.

What does this say to you?

What it says to me is if we “leave the king’s presence” in a hurry due to our misery and dissatisfaction with the current trends, we lose whatever voice we might have had to turn the tide of authority to good.  Look at the stories of Daniel and Esther.  Daniel became a ruler in the kingdom of Babylon, first, then Persia.  Both nations were heathen, meaning Daniel probably dispensed with commands of a king he neither agreed with nor supported on specific issues.  Yet look at the results.  Esther became the wife of a man who worshiped violent, immoral and pretty much capricious gods, yet she saved her people by being a place she otherwise would have preferred not to be.

Where has God called you to be?  Remember the above examples from Scripture and settle your mind on being a light in a dark place.  If lights shine where there is already plenty of light, they get lost in the brightness.  But if a light is placed in a dark corner of the room, it dispels the dark—even if it’s just a little bit.