Friday, January 15, 2010

Pr 3:16ff for Jan 15

"How does this apply to me?" is the first question for some personalities, the last for others. It's good to avoid either extreme, to avoid both never and always asking it.

A cynic will often be heard taking a passage like this and ridiculing it because of something like the earthquake in Haiti, saying, "what length of days, what long life, did God give some of the wise people in Haiti this week?"

And the solution is not to pretend we didn't hear the implied question of the cynic: "if wisdom provides long life, peace, riches, honor, then why did some fools go on living and some of the wise die early in their lives?"

The implied question is the converse of the question "if you sin, is it really true you will die?" One answer, phrased as "you surely will not die!" in Genesis 3:4, is stated there by who the narrative says is "the serpent."

The cynic's question, the converse of the serpent's, is "if you are wise, is it true you won't die?"

In light of an earthquake in your city, you might not die right away even if you definitely sin now, and you might die right away even if you definitely have wisdom now. Same with peace and riches and "pleasant ways."

Many people get no farther than this, the assumption that all consequences must be immediate, or they don't count. It's like putting your son in kindergarden, and asking your son that same day to recite the Pythagorean theorem. (Well, not "recite," but apply. I know of a young boy who could recite it then ... ;) )

When we tell someone to make an investment, are we stupid like that? Do we say, "invest in oil!" and get upset when there's no immediate gain, or even loss of everything short-term? Therefore, in "investment" kinds of things -- one of which is wisdom -- there is risk taking. The cynic's case only considers short term: you may be wise, and yet die. But that's not the end of it. If the religion says it produces a long-term investment, then it must be judged as a long-term investment, just as other such things.

The investment analogy is a good one to show that behind this questioning of the promise about wisdom here is a collateral demand that the outcome of a promise be produced right away. Sure, the cynic also laughs at the demand that the outcome will be "someday." But that would only be decisive if there are no such things as long-term consequences of investments.

However, "someday" is NOT the only answer to the cynic's question. Wisdom is a long-term investment. But compared to folly, wisdom is a better short-term investment, now! Here, in the world of today's investment, with no guaranteed short-term results, wisdom holds its own against folly just fine. In the world of short-term results with no guarantees, in competition with its opposite, wisdom does just fine ... and in the world of long-term results, wisdom trounces. That's what the promise is. No need to be embarrassed about either contest.

No comments:


Blog Archive