Monday, September 2, 2019

Poor Man's Wisdom

Ecclesiastes tells us that a poor man's wisdom is despised, no matter how much good he does with it. From the studies that I have done in the Hebrew language in other Old Testament Scripture, I know that the Hebrew word so often translated "despised" by English translators is something more similar to"thought lightly of." 

In other words, not much is thought of the poor man's wisdom, no matter how much good he does with it. 

And isn't that strange? We tell ourselves that we're a people who seek good wherever we can find it, that we want to know the secrets to living a good life wherever we can expose them. And here, we have a man who is potentially doing an incredible amount of good, who knows the "secret" to blessing, who overflows with wisdom in such a way that it's manifest in all the good that he does through it...and we don't care. Not only do we not care, but it seems no one has ever cared, ever. 

For no other reason than that the wise man is also a poor man. 

It's not what we think wisdom should be. We think if you're wise, you ought also to be wealthy. You ought also to have a vast array of worldly resources to work with. After all, wouldn't you put that wisdom to work for you? Wouldn't you take everything you know about living in the world and make it pay off for your own worth and value? Wouldn't you have everything you wanted first before you share what you know with others?

If you have the winning lottery numbers, you don't just share them with everyone. No, you buy yourself a ticket and hold it close to the chest. Right? 

So it doesn't matter how wise you appear to be, if you're not also wealthy. Because your inability or unwillingness to use your wisdom for your own financial gain proves your foolishness. If your wisdom truly worked, no matter how much good it does, it would return its investment for you. If it hasn't, we just assume it's all smoke and mirrors. 

But here are a couple of little truths that we have to keep in mind. First, wisdom does not necessarily mean wealth. In fact, the wiser someone seems to be, the less he often cares about things like wealth. It's true. Those who have learned to live most wisely in the world and who do so much good in their communities don't even think about things like wealth. They think about others more often than they think about themselves, and they're happier for it than any financial gain could ever bring them. Even this is wise. 

Second, we have to remember how often poverty is praised in Scripture. Even think simply of the poor widow in the Gospels. The two mites she threw into the collection box were worth more than the thousands of dollars given by the wealthy. And why? Because she alone knew the true value of what she was giving. Wisdom. 

We live in a world that's reluctant to listen to anyone but the wealthy. We think lightly of the poor, no matter how much they seem to be getting right. No matter how much good they are doing in their communities. No matter how much they have to give. And apparently, we've always lived in this world. The Bible is talking about this same mindset all the way back in Ecclesiastes. 

But what if we didn't think lightly of the poor? What if we treasured the poor as much as Jesus did? What if we listened to their wisdom, which might tell us more than merely how to live well in the world? It might also tell us that wealth...isn't the measure. 

It never has been, even if we have always thought it was. 

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