Friday, August 5, 2016

What’s in your wallet?

             The slogan for a Capital One credit card dates back at least to 2003 and the ads featured marauding Vikings before they morphed into touristy Vikings. More recently the question is asked by Samuel L. Jackson in his hip, yet authoritative, way.
            What’s in your safe?

            Obviously a spin off the wallet question, the safe question has us accompany veteran actor William Devane as he rides a horse or drives a golf cart or plays with towers of gold coins and encourages us to worry about the economy and the national debt.
            I discovered this morning in Proverbs 3 that those are flawed financial questions. The best question is, “What’s in your heart?” And the answer you want to be able to give is “wisdom,” because it yields a better return than other investments. Wisdom “is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Take that, Rosland Capital.) Wisdom is “more precious than rubies.” Wisdom’s other payoffs include long life, riches, honor, peace, and blessing.
            So if wisdom brings such success, I have two more questions:  What exactly is wisdom?  And, how do I get wisdom?
If you are "skilled at living,"you will not
put tomatoes in a fruit salad.
            The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, means “skill in living.” Using the Hebrew Scriptures’ poetic technique of synonymous parallelism, I conclude from Proverbs 3:13 that “understanding” is a synonym for “wisdom.” Find and gain, verbs highlighted green, are parallel. Wisdom and understanding, nouns highlighted blue, are parallel.
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
            (My former English students will remember how much fun we had color coding verbs, nouns, and adjectives in our Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop books. I used the same colors above. That was a happy bunny trail.)
            Other phrases in the third chapter of Proverbs identify the source of wisdom. The writer says in verses 1 and 2 that his teaching and commands will bring long life, peace, and prosperity. Since those are the same yields attributed to wisdom, I conclude wisdom is found in those teachings and commands.
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
            So, now that we’ve decided wisdom is a good thing to have in one’s heart and more important than what’s in one’s wallet or safe, what’s the first step? Is there a toll free number to call for an application or a free DVD to be mailed to my house?
            No, but three Scripture verses relay the same advice:  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10) And that phrase begs for a definition, if not its own blog post.
            It’s a phrase I’ve pondered on and off for many years, and a passage in Isaiah gave me some insight. In chapter 1, God warns the prophet not to fear what the people of Israel feared, but to fear God instead. God even uses the word “dread!”
            Dread God? Sounds harsh!
This is exactly how I dress to disinfect my bathroom.
            But I think of it this way:  What I fear or dread controls me. Think of all the phobias out there:  If I have agoraphobia, I won’t leave my house. I dread public places and all those people. If I have misophobia, I’m going to always be disinfecting things. I dread germs. If I have peniaphobia, I will be consumed with what’s in my safe. I dread poverty.
            If I have agora-miso-penia-phobia, I fear a germ-infested mob will invade my house and steal my gold, leaving viscous slime in my safe.
            Wouldn’t it be better to fear God (who happens to love me) and let him control my life? I think it would be the beginning of wisdom.
            Thank you for staying with me to the very end of this rambling blog post. I can be concise, but not today.

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