This past week I went golfing with one of our deacons. Now anyone who golfs with me will attest that I ask a lot of questions, from “Which club should I use?” to the more frequent, “Can you help me look for my ball?” But there is one question I always seem to ask and in doing so, I believe, has made me a much better golfer. And that is...“We’re not keeping score, right?”
You have heard me say this before...we learn best by asking questions and pursuing the answers. Einstein never stopped questioning the world around him, And look how wise he was. We live in a new world where finding all the information we seek is as easy as pulling a smartphone out of our pocket or purse. I fear, however, more people know how to seek wisdom from Google and Bing rather than through the Bible and prayer.
In her book “Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wonder, and wisdom” author and political pundit Arianna Huffington writes, “The quest for knowledge may be pursued at higher speeds with smarter tools today. But wisdom is found no more readily than it was three thousand years ago in the court of King Solomon.In fact, ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.”
Is it safe to assume that we all wish to be wise? Yet wisdom itself is not innate. We are not born knowing all the answers to Jeopardy. We have to seek them. Likewise, we can gather an arsenal of information, but we still have to filter it...and make sense of it before we can claim it as our own. For Christians this can be a difficult task. We must also discern the difference between worldly and godly wisdom, if we wish to grow in obedience to God’s will.
Not long after Solomon becomes king, does God appear to him in a dream. God asks Solomon a poignant question: “Ask what I should give you.” God loves Solomon so much that God is willing to give him anything he wants. Anything he wants! If God made you such an offer what would you ask for?
Instead of asking for something as common as money or power, Solomon says he wants “an understanding mind,”one that is “able to discern between good and evil.” This might be the wisest thing he could ever do. God gives the young king exactly what he wants, and much more, including “both riches and honor” throughout his life. Solomon not only wants all the information but also the skills to discern it as a means to...increase his wisdom, his power, and his success.
As the co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post...Arianna Huffington has written extensively about the rise and fall of successful people. People, who like most of us, equate success with money and power. Yet after she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007, she began to ask herself different questions. Questions that would help her redefine her idea of “success.” She writes of a new metric that is balanced with “well-being, wonder, and wisdom.”
I wonder how the questions we ask, and the information we seek, are increasing our wisdom...not to mention our well-being?
Let us turn our attention to the six short verses from our reading in Ephesians, where we are given some wisdom to increase our well-being. The three themes that stand out to me include, make the most of your time; be filled with the Spirit; and always give thanks and praise to God in the name of Christ Jesus. If we were to put this in Huffington's new metric...then we are to be mindful, we are to be life seeking, and we are to always be grateful for all that we have.
Jesus calls us to be mindful...to live in the now without fear of what tomorrow will bring (Mt. 6:34). This passage too warns us to avoid time spent dulling our minds with vices or addictions...anything that might keep us from being fully present in the moment. Like a Black Friday bargain hunter, we have to be ready to pounce on the bargain before it goes away. Or so you different kind of hunters can understand, you have to be on guard for the buck to be broadside.
For Huffington, it took a near fatal disaster to discover that this limited time called "life" is more precious than money and fame. I imagine there is someone here today who understands this all too well. And why is that? Why does it take a heart to stop beating before we realize how lucky we are that it beats in the first place? The Buddhist says we are only given so many breaths, thus not one should ever be wasted.That breath, as you might recall, is the Spirit of God living within and among us.
Through grace of God given to us all through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus we have received a new lease on life, another chance to do the will of God. So we must ask our self, "Am I making the most of this time?" Or "Is my wisdom increasing in the moments by which I live my life?" As followers of Christ, our time should be used seeking the life giving Spirit that helps us to live in Christlikeness. We can’t afford to waste a precious second quarreling, or spreading rumors that harm others.
As Christ demonstrated, this requires of us to make ourselves vulnerable to others and empty ourselves so that we can be filled with the Spirit of God. We cannot let the sun go down on our anger, but must be quick to reconcile our differences, love our enemies, and put aside our hatred, malice and judgment. Those negative things in our life are the evils of the world that take our focus off the true joys of a new life in Christ. They are the evils that keep us from walking together as one people filled with the Holy Spirit.
The author of Ephesians suggests...our wisdom increases each time we gather together in prayer and song. As we seek a life giving spirit, we come to realize that we are not meant to be alone. We are a communal people, connected through other persons. We are one people, made in the image of God, bound together by a common humanity. So when one person suffers, we all suffer. When one person is blessed, we are all blessed.
We gather as a church not just to replenish our spirit, but to give our gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessings that Jesus gave to us. Therefore, through his glorious name, we are to offer God our thanks, and show God our gratitude. With the very first breath you take in the morning, you must say, "This is the day that the Lord has made," and say it with certainty that God is there, even in the messiness of it all.
Perhaps cultivating a spirit of gratitude will help us slow down, to stop rushing through life without stopping to give thanks for all that we are given. Perhaps it will make us more mindful of our surroundings and of other people. It might help us to be more positive in the face of challenges and confrontations. It might allow us to stand up during a difficult situation and ask the wise question, “What am I thankful for in this situation?” I am not sure if every answer you receive will make you any wiser, or if asking such a question will prevent you from collapsing from exhaustion someday. But it seems to me to be a step in the right direction, toward greater well-being, wonder, and wisdom.
In closing, let us look back at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5. It states, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself up to us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
May such good news increase the wonder of your love, and continue to grow your spiritual wisdom and may it never stop blessing your overall well being.
"The wisdom of God continually directs me. I know what to do and when to do it, as I am guided by the Spirit in all that I do." For the Lord gives wisdom: from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding-Proverbs 2:6.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, and ed. Feasting on the Word, Year B. Vol. 3. Louisville, TN: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Huffington, Arianna. Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wonder, and wisdom. New York: Harmony Books, Crown Publishing, 2007.
Yamasaki, April. "Reflections on the Lectionary." Christian Century, August 5, 2015: 21. I am very grateful for her inspiration and insights that I drew heavily from to write this sermon.