Fruits of Wisdom
1 Kings 3:3b – 13,16-28, Psalm 111(VU833
1 Cor 3:18 – 19, 4:10
August 20, 2006 at Southminster United Church
by Tad Mitsui
One car was seen going around and round the block. A man working in the garden asked if he could help. He said, "No. I know where I’m going. There is a gas station selling the cheapest gas around. It’s just that a little bit of gas is still in the tank, you see. I want to fill it up."
Often, very smart people do very stupid things. Truly wise people know they do stupid things sometimes. King Solomon, who was considered to be the wisest king ever existed in Israel, knew that there was a limit to human intellgence. This is why he wrote the most bleak literature in the Bible. He believed that those who might be very wise and successful, could still be deficient.
Solomon was the most successful king of all times, not only in Israel but also among all kings and leaders. Under his reign, Israel became a powerful country extending its borders from the present day Israel to Jordan, to Lebanon and to Syria, and even to Egypt. The country became very wealthy. Solomon was successful economically, militarily, and politically. But most importantly, he was known for his wisdom. When he became a king, he first asked God for wisdom and nothing else. He was not only a successful king, but he was also a wise king, as the story in today”s lesson shows.
In fact, many of so-called "Wisdom Literature" in the Bible are said to have been written by King Solomon. They are the Ecclesiastes, the Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and many Psalms. My favourite is from the Ecclesiastes; "For everything, there is a season. A time for every matter under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to love and a time to hate. Etc." Some of them are earthy and funny. For example, in Proverbs there are sayings like: "If you are wise, you will keep your mouth shut." Or, "To live with someone who talks all the time is worse than living in hell." Some are full of humanity. The Song of Songs is the loveliest of all love songs. The fact that such a love song is in the Bible is an affirmation of human sexuality.
However, what is most interesting is the fact that King Solomon ended up being sceptical about his achievements. Because he was wise, he was able to realize how limited humans were. The Ecclesiastes, which I believe to be the best writings of King Solomon, is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. In it, he expressed his disappointments in life. In chapter one, he said, "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. – It is useless, useless. Life is useless, all is useless. You spend your life working hard, labouring, and what do you have to show for it? Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. What”s the use?" Why did such a successful man, like Solomon, end up so disappointed and pessimistic?
A Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy made the same point, in one story. The story goes like this: there was a man who was told that he could get all the land he wanted provided he could go around it on foot in one day. So, at dawn, he started to run. By late afternoon, of course, he could not go on any more. He was absolutely worn out. But with incredible determination he staggered on. As the Sun was setting in the West, he was crawling but still trying to grab more land. He did make it back to the place where he started out when the Sun disappeared in the west. But he died of exhaustion right after the Sunset. In the end, all the land he acquired for free was a piece of land with a size of 3 by 6 feet, where was buried. Now then, the question is: is all we do in this life is useless, because we die anyway? Is what we do is so useless that we should do nothing?
Some people believe that. They think that the best way is to get away from the world and spend the rest of your life in meditation. I don”t think that is what King Solomon was saying. For one thing, he tried his best to be a good king, for people and for the country. And he was a good king and a wise one, too. His country benefited from his wisdom and achievements. But because he tried so hard, he realized that all humans had limitations. He found that his achievements fell far short of the goal. In fact without God, he found them useless. He felt the need of something more, much more, to make life worthwhile. Solomon in toward the end of the Ecclesiastes, said, "Remember your creator in the days of your youth.", as though to say, "whatever you do, you do it with God in mind from the beginning." He also said, "The ultimate way to become wise is to honour God."
Albert Einstein, who was considered to be the best scientist of the 20th Century, once said, "Science without religion is blind and dangerous. Religion without science is crazy." Science is one of the most important human enterprises. And the best scientist we have ever known in the last century believed that human endeavour was dangerous without God. And only lazy people, who don”t believe in science and do not use their minds, turn their religions into superstitions.
The first article of faith in the Christian teaching is "God is love." Therefore to honour God is to love others. This is why Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said, "You may have to be a fool in the eyes of humans in order to be wise in the eyes of God." He said it because the way of love may seem foolish if you don”t know God. If you don”t believe that ultimately the wisdom of God is love, you will have no choice but to see Jesus Christ as the most stupid person ever lived on the earth. It is because he died in order to love people. But for those who believe in the love of God, Christ showed us the true way – indeed the way of wisdom of God. Thanks be to God.