Another Thing All Wise People Do

The second of a two-part article. Read part one here: Two Things All Wise People Do.

Joseph Chan

We learned last month that one defining characteristic of the wise is that they continually seek out more wisdom. They do so because it is the wise thing to do. While this seems kind of like a catch-22how do the unwise ever become wise?it makes sense if you think about it. As one increases in knowledge, he or she recognizes its value and therefore pursues even more of it.

The second aspect held in common among the wise is that they acknowledge the source of wisdom. And such an acknowledgement yields the humble admission that knowledge doesn't originate within themselves.

In the seventh verse of Proverbs, Solomon said as much with his thesis statement for both the book of Proverbs and the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."

In essence he's claiming true wisdom comes from God, just as his did.

This claim here that God is our source, our starting point, for wisdom is what sets Proverbs apart from other wisdom literature of the ancient near east. While scholars have uncovered writings very similar to some of the proverbs in the Bible, Solomon's thesis here lends a uniqueness not found anywhere else.

Now, I know you might object to this claim that all wise people fear the God of the Bible and accept him as the origin for knowledge. After all, aren't people like Gandhi and Confucius famous for the wisdom they possessed? And yet neither one ascribed to belief in the Judeo-Christian God.

The Slippery Slope of Unbridled Greed

 A preview of May's email-only article.

Jonathan Gallegos

In this month's subscriber email we're examining the devastating effects of unchecked greed. (If you're not signed up to receive these emails, you can do so below.)

Here's how the article starts:

Among many vices and stupidities against which we're warned in the book of Proverbs, greed has to be in the top ten. In just the 13th verse of the book we get the first treatment on the subject where Solomon relates the motivations of would-be murderers: "We shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder."

In this case the driving factor for murder is mere greed. They want to get stuff.

Sounds pretty lame to me. And desperate.

Nevertheless, we should not be so quick to dismiss the gale force of the winds of greed. Though the vice may start small—a longing for new shoes or the newest iPhone, perhaps—left unchecked, greed is a cancer that can eventually consume its host.


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Two Things All Wise People Do

Wisdom seeks out knowledge from the source.

Artyom Kabajev

If you know someone who is wise, I bet you he or she approaches life in two discrete ways.

What's tricky about wisdom is its relative nature. Wisdom isn't an achievement you earn like a badge or a certification, but rather it is a cumulative process of acquiring practical knowledge over time. Everyone falls somewhere on the scale from fool to sage.

Nevertheless, the fact that wisdom can't really be achieved or measured actually leads us to the first behavior all wise people seem to engage in: they seek out wisdom. If this seems like a catch-22, well, it kind of is. Let's illustrate the point with a story from a foodie co-worker of mine.

The Most Difficult Mandate of the Christian Life

 A preview of April's email-only article.


Did you know I write a free monthly article just for email subscribers? It's true!

This month we're discussing one of the hardest things we Christians are commanded to do.

Here's how the article starts:

Jesus commanded quite a few impossible things.

He said we must pick up a cross if we want to follow him. He said if we want to be great we must be a servant to all. He said we should turn the other cheek.

But if you ask me, the most difficult of Christ's teachings is his instruction to forgive.

Jesus said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).

On paper that seems totally logical and fair and true. But in real life it's never so easy is it?


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The Weird Backwardness of Christian Success

Because meekness is for winners.

Kraken Images

Everyone I know wants to succeed.

Those who do fail at something don't set out trying to fall flat on their faces.

What differs among us is how we define success. It seems that we all have some sort of idea of what it means to succeed in life even if we've never taken the time to verbalize it. These notions are often preconceived based on our culture, our upbringing, and our value system.

And while how we define success may vary wildly from one person to the next, generally speaking each definition contains some permutation of the following elements: wealth, health, comfort, peace, security, esteem, love, and accomplishment.

Take the fabled American Dream for example: Stable and fulfilling job, two cars, two kids, nice home, loving spouse, large 401k. Retire at 65 with a big nest egg. Spend that leisure time traveling and enjoying your cute grandkids. Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that picture, Jesus offered up a weird backward definition of what it means to succeed. You see the people of his day wanted the same basic elements we do: wealth, long life, peace, and a large family. All blessings from God, right?

With this context in mind Jesus presented his famous Sermon on the Mount in which he suggested a different type of blessing--some sort of bizarro world in which those who undergo uncomfortable and otherwise unpleasant experiences actually benefit as a result.

Jesus taught about nine different blessings, that, for the most part, sound awful to this writer if I'm being honest. Here's what he said:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:4-11

Jesus said we are blessed if we are poor in spirit, if we mourn, are meek, hunger for righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, and slandered.

I'm cool with striving to be pure in heart and thirsting for righteousness, but I really don't want to have to mourn, to be persecuted, or slandered.

Of course, we need to make a distinction here. For some of these axioms, known as the Beatitudes, Jesus isn't teaching that we should seek out such circumstances. He isn't instructing his followers to seek out opportunities for others to "utter all kinds of evil against you falsely" (Matt 5:11). Instead, Jesus knew that those who follow him and serve God will be slandered.

He taught that when these things happen, we should not despair, but instead should be happy because God will reward those who suffer on his account.

So while blessing as defined by this world and the Old Testament way of thinking focuses only on the here and now--wealth, power, health, esteem, sex, drugs, and rock and roll--Jesus provided his followers with a long view of blessing. He taught that the reward in heaven would be great for those who undergo these trials.

So although we don't seek out persecution or mourning, we shouldn't be surprised or disappointed when these things come our way. Instead we should embrace them knowing that, while earthly riches and other such blessings will pass away, heavenly rewards will endure for eternity. Taking this long view makes hardship all the more palatable for those who follow Jesus.

Therefore we would do well to incorporate these elements into our definition of success. Rather than the size of your 401k, how much mercy have you shown? Instead of a paid for home, how much peace did you make with those around you?

The beatitudes comprise just one of myriad poignant lessons Jesus taught his followers, and he often used parables to get his point across. If you've ever wanted to explore these parables all in one place, you might be interested in my free quick reference guide called The 39 Parables of Christ, Explained.

I've compiled an exhaustive list and provided a decoder ring of sorts to help you understand the meaning behind each one. Whether you're looking to expand your knowledge or grow closer to Jesus, this guide might help you out. Just enter your email below and it's yours: