Socrates said “The only true wisdom is to know you know nothing.” Deep! But is the great philosopher right? In a sense, yes, because to know you know nothing means you must be in relationships to know anything.
One of the most powerful draws for me in my own journey to Orthodox Christianity was this palpable connection to real people through the centuries and the heavy and obvious connection to those who would follow me after I left this life. In other words, I was a debtor to those who lived before me and a teacher to those who would follow!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 14:27-15:4:
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. In a multitude of people is the glory of a king, but without people a prince is ruined. He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot. He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him. The wicked is overthrown through his evil-doing, but the righteous finds refuge through his integrity. Wisdom abides in the mind of a man of understanding, but it is not known in the heart of fools. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Wise instruction after wise instruction in the wonderful Book of Proverbs. I always recommend the regular reading of Proverbs to parents, especially fathers, precisely because reading Proverbs and absorbing it’s wisdom corrects two great weaknesses in the heart of we humans.
First, reading Proverbs invites me to confront the weakness of my own perspective. None of us ever really assume we are wrong right off the bat. It’s natural for we humans to assume that what we think we know is correct. Nothing wrong with that as long as it’s accurate. But all too often it isn’t. And it isn’t that we are completely wrong. Most of life is simply not that black and white. The weakness comes in making final decisions about any subject before we have all the facts. Which always leads to a warped perspective. This never ends well for us. When I confront the tunnel vision of my own perspective and the need to expand my perspective, I am invited to true humility and true wisdom.
Next, reading Proverbs invites me to confront the weakness of my own pride. It is a true spiritual poverty in we humans when we speak as if we need nothing and no one else. No wonder the consistent wisdom of the Fathers of the Faith offer us silence as the path to wisdom. It is in patience, silence, and humility that I open my own heart up to a flood of wise living and insight from those who came before me. And it offers those who follow me a wonderful lesson to protect their lives from the folly of a foolish life.
If I am ever going to broaden my own soul enough to be a fit habitation for the Holy Spirit, I am going to have to confront my own narrow mind. And the wisdom of the Orthodox Christian faith and her sublime theology of Christ risen from the dead means I am never disconnected or alone. I have an unbelievable wealth of wisdom pooled within her Life to draw from all my life AND I have the responsibility to pass on this wisdom in word, act, and example to the next generation.
Today, are you wise? The first step in being wise is realizing you are not, and then having the courage to embrace the treasure of wisdom laid at your feet in the Orthodox Faith. It’s all about being Orthodox on Purpose!