‘THE CREATIVE AND LIFE-GIVING WISDOM’
Watch a video by Walter Brueggeman on http://www.onscripture.com/walter-brueggemann-wisdom
When we talk about wisdom, we often make the mistake of thinking that wisdom is the same with knowledge. But wisdom is not the same with knowledge. Knowledge is about gaining more and more information. And knowledge, without wisdom, can be destructive.
The rise of modern technology, for example, was born out of the accumulation of knowledge by many generations in human history. And the rise of modem technology has not always been beneficial to humanity or entire world. We see this in the two World Wars in the beginning of the 20th century. Now all wars are evil, but the two World Wars stood out amongst the other wars that human beings have waged against one another. These two wars were the only major wars that were done at an industrial scale; and the scale of the destruction was unprecedentedly industrial as well. It is estimated that around 100 millions people died in the two wars.
And we still live under the same threat of this self-made annihilation. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake was detected in North Korea earlier this year. The regime in North Korea claimed that the earthquake was the result of their hydrogen bomb test. A hydrogen bomb is more destructive than a nuclear bomb. It can be up to 1000 times more powerful than the atom bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima, killing 140.000 people in a single blast.
So wisdom is definitely not the same with knowledge. Wisdom is about how to live life so that it brings wellness to ourselves and others, not evil.
Indeed wisdom comes from God. In the passage that we have today from the book of Proverbs, God’s wisdom is personified and it was present at the time when God created the universe (v.22-29). Yes, God created the world through wisdom. In verse 30, like a little child can also be translated like an architect. So wisdom was seen as the architect who helped God in designing and creating the universe.
And creation is all about life because if there was one thing that was created in the time of creation, that one thing was life or the foundations of life. And if God created the world through wisdom that means God’s wisdom brings life, not death. To follow God’s wisdom therefore will bring one to life and choosing not to follow it will only bring one to death. This is the major theme of the book of Proverbs, and other similar books that are classified as the Wisdom writings in the Hebrew literature.
We hear similar message in our reading from the book of Psalms. Here we once again hear another passage about creation. And here we hear the echo of Genesis (1:26-28) where God called human beings to rule the world. This passage in Psalm however adds another dimension to that call. It reminds us that even though we are mere mortals like other creatures in the world, God appointed us humans to be rulers of the world.
Many of you would know that I’ve flown quite often between Australia and Indonesia lately. And whenever I flew, I always chose seats according to the time of the day of my flight. So if the flight was in the evening, I chose the seat next to the aisle so that I can go to the toilet easily without disturbing people sitting next to me. If the flight was at daytime, I chose the seat next to the window so I could enjoy the view from the window.
And even though I have flown many times, I still enjoy the view from up-above. It is amazing to see how small everything looks like from up there. Even the gigantic buildings and structures that we have built look like tiny toys from above. I once flew over the city of Dubai and saw the tallest man-made tower in the world currently, the Burj Khalifa that stands at an astounding 829 meters. But viewed from the sky, this mega structure is minute compared to the vast blue sky and desert landscape. It reminds me of how insignificant we are in the world.
Yet, however insignificant we are in the universe, God gave us the authority to rule the world on His behalf. It doesn’t mean however that we can do whatever we like. Our authority to rule the world doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to God. We are God’s ambassadors. We are here to represent God in the world.
In other words we are to behave just like God, our Creator. And just like God creates and preserves life, we too are to create and preserve life and more life. If our knowledge is used only to create more and more powerful weapons to kill one another, to cause greater harm upon our enemies, or to technology that brings more destruction to our environment, then we have violated our call.
The defence budget of our closest and strongest military ally, the USA, is close to US$600 billion. That is a lot of money and it is more than double the combined defence budget of almost all nations in the entire world!
Imagine if the same amount of money was used to pay for our brightest people to do research on how to heal deadly disease like cancer, or on how to make us live a healthier lifestyle, or on how to fix global warming, or on how to end poverty, etc.; we would definitely live in a better world that we do today. I am not saying that the issue is simple, but imagine a world where there is no need for any nation to create a weapon either to protect themselves or to destroy its enemies. Would it not be the wiser thing to do?
What we need to do is to be in touch once again with the wisdom that God has offered to us. And to be in touch with God’s wisdom we are to be able think outside of the box; outside of the norm that is usually accepted. Indeed wisdom comes when we are in touch with our inner child within ourselves; with the source of creativity within us.
It’s interesting that the book of Proverbs sees wisdom as a little child who played by God’s side in the time of creation (v. 30). And God delighted in wisdom like a parent delights in his/her little child. Indeed when He created the world God must have been in touch with His own inner creativity. Remember the close connection between the word creative and create. Creation is the fruit of God’s creativity, which was born out of God’s playfulness like a small child.
In his book, Focus, American popular neuroscientist, Daniel Goleman, talks about the importance of mindfulness to be able to get in touch with our creativity. One way to achieve this mindfulness is to spend more and more time away from the screens and our busy lifestyle and immerse ourselves in nature. Creation is indeed infused with God’s wisdom and the more we spend time in the creation that God made, the more we can be in touch with God’s creativity and wisdom behind the creation.
Indeed, friends, we hear God’s wisdom when we take our focus away from ourselves. And we can learn about all these from Jesus himself. He is God’s Wisdom personified. He is the Word of God who became flesh (John 1:1-18). The Word is the translation of the Greek word, Logos, which can also be translated as Wisdom. Logos was with God in creation and nothing came into being without Logos. And in the fullness of time Logos became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To accept and follow Jesus therefore is to live our life according to the wisdom of God.
And Jesus lived his life by bringing and restoring life to other people: he made the blind see, the paralyzed walk, the leper cleansed, the sinners forgiven, the dead alive. In his life we see God the Creator at work once again to bring life in its fullness to all people whom he met. The Word, Logos, God’s Wisdom, had indeed become flesh in Jesus and through him God’s creative force of creation once again was made known.
Friends, where and how can you find wisdom, God’s wisdom in today’s world? God’s wisdom speaks to us through different avenues: it speaks to us through creation, through experience, or through other people who care about us and love us. It is up to us whether to reject the voice of wisdom and follow something else, or to listen to its voice and be restored to the fullness of life.
Rev. Toby Keva