Magazine article The Christian Century

Wisdom Famine

Magazine article The Christian Century

Wisdom Famine

Article excerpt

Sunday, August 20 Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20

IN THIS information age, a steady stream of input is bombarding us. Like water from a fire hose, information overwhelms and numbs us. But are we any wiser? Are we any closer to God, or to God's design or intentions for life? Are we humbler? Are we learning anything about the way life really works? I fear the subtitle of a book by C. John Sommerville sums up our situation: The Dearth of Wisdom in an Information Society. As one observer notes, we are in a "wisdom famine."

Who wants to be wise anymore? People want to be right, rich, popular and in control. But wise?

In sharp contrast, the Proverbs passage pictures a wisdom feast. In this allegory full of poetic images, wisdom is personified as a woman--a kind of hostess with the mostest. She's prepared a lavish feast and sent out formal invitations. "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed." All that you need to do is RSVP. Just show up! Come on in, sit down and feast on wisdom!

Later in chapter nine we meet another woman, "a foolish woman" who lives down the road. She wants our company too. But her place is not a mansion but a dive, and the sustenance she offers is meager, even deadly. We need to be careful, because she represents foolishness, and foolishness is dangerous.

Proverbs 9 seems to suggest that someone might be tempted to bypass wisdom's feast and try to survive on the thin gruel of folly (or information). Why would anyone want to do that? Clearly, wisdom has more to offer: she's the better person, offering the better feast. But we are to choose.

Ephesians 5 is a call to wisdom too, although it comes across less as an invitation and more as a kick in the backside: "Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise ... do not be foolish." And the text even gives some specific ideas of what wisdom looks like, examples of what a wise person does, things like "make the most of the time" or "understand what the will of the Lord is" or "don't get drunk" and "be filled with the Spirit."

Of course, the Book of Proverbs gets down to specifics too. The first nine chapters describe how wisdom works in general, but the proverbs in chapter ten concern the nuts and bolts of godly living. As someone has pointed out, a proverb is "a short sentence based on long experience. …

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