I love this quote from Confucius “A man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” That’s good. You see, it isn’t wrong to not know something; it’s wrong to not care whether you know or not. A wise person is a person who has at least the curiosity to ask questions and learn from past discoveries. But a fool settles for his own insight, paltry as it may be, to be the whole of the matter! It’s not wrong to be ignorant; it’s wrong to stay ignorant!
And that is what amazes me about people nowadays. Here is all this wisdom forged for centuries in human society and we somehow believe our disregard of this wisdom will all turn out alright. Amazing. And what’s worse and a great indictment of the shallowness of humans today, they aren’t even curious about why this wisdom reveals this or that moral path as a hazard or a sin. They aren’t even curious. And that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt they are fools.
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 8:1-21:
Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, in the paths she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men.O simple ones, learn prudence; O foolish men, pay attention. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, dwell in prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have counsel and sound wisdom, I have insight, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles govern the earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
A life lived well always includes lessons learned and that means becoming a “wise” person. It isn’t a mistake that we always think of someone wise as someone older. In fact, the Hebrew word for “elder” literally means “Bearded One.” So, if you’ve lived long enough to have some hair on your chin, you’ve probably lived long enough to learn some valuable lessons!
And our passage today shows us that “wisdom” has 4 life-giving traits that can help us avoid the pitfalls of a life lived poorly!
First, Wisdom YELLS! The twin realities of the clear voice of wisdom AND our all too common deafness to wisdom is the story of humanity in a few words. But still, wisdom isn’t silent. Wisdom isn’t hiding. Wisdom isn’t invisible. In fact, what makes the matter all the worse is precisely that wisdom is so available and yet I still ignore wisdom in my living. Wisdom is LOUD. Wisdom doesn’t want to be missed. You have to work to ignore wisdom.
Next, Wisdom INVITES. Notice in the Divine Liturgy when the presbyter brings the Gospel Book into the Nave at the Small Entrance he says “Wisdom! Let us Attend.” Wise living can never be forced on anyone. No matter how much you may want someone else to see the error of his ways, you can’t force someone to be wise. Being wise comes from accepting the invitation. And notice wisdom doesn’t insist. It offers. Wisdom doesn’t demand. It invites. It may be LOUD but it isn’t pushy.
Next, Wisdom HATES. Yes, hates. But what it hates makes all the difference. Wisdom hates evil. Wisdom hates arrogance. Wisdom hates “perverted speech.” I particularly like that last one. This means that silence is better than a multitude of words and speech is best when considered and measured! If you can’t see why wisdom hates what it hates, it’s because you love what wisdom hates.
Finally, Wisdom VALUES. Wisdom creates strength. Wisdom creates a life of worth. Wisdom makes leadership shine. A wise person is a treasure to all around her. Wisdom is worth the work. Being wise is worth the effort. And the humility needed to embrace wisdom creates a life that is valued by others.
We remember the removal of the relics of St. Nicephoros of Constantinople today precisely because remembering these very human events connected to the saints invites us to not ignore ther wisdom learned by those who came before us! And that, my dearest, is the very heart of humility and wisdom!
Today, are you wise? OK, perhaps it’s better if I simply join you in saying let’s seek and embrace wisdom together. Let’s stop being our own worst enemy when it comes to humility and wisdom, and let’s be courageous enough to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Nicephoros, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.