The Wild Western Wise One

Finally! A moment to study and write. With last week’s spring break coming on the heels of the time change, it’s been an adjustment getting our homeschool back in the groove these past two days. But, I am happy to report, we have overcome and are on the road to wisdom and knowledge!

Speaking of that illustrious road, I promised to write about a different character found in Proverbs. Previously, I read with chagrin and blogged about the characteristics of The Fool. It’s not a complete picture, though, without taking a look at The Fool’s opposite: The Wise. Picture the two characters as the main actors in a Western. The Fool is decked out in a distinctive black hat. He struts around thinking he’s All That. He’s so full of himself that he completely misses every chance God gives him to learn the truth. The Wise, of course, wears the white hat. How does he present himself in our Western? Let’s take a look and see what character traits are found in this Wise character:

  • listens and adds to his learning
  • gets guidance
  • understands proverbs, parables, and riddles (Proverbs 1)
  • is not wise in his own eyes
  • fears the Lord
  • shuns evil
  • inherits honor (Proverbs 3)
  • is not lazy
  • is industrious like the ant (Proverbs 6)
  • listens and does not ignore the instructions gleamed from wisdom (Proverbs 8 )
  • he loves those who rebuke him and show him the right way
  • becomes more wise as he receives instruction
  • adds to his learning
  • gets understanding through knowledge of the Holy One
  • gets wisdom through fearing the Lord
  • will have many years
  • days are added to his life
  • will be rewarded
  • avoids the wayward woman (Proverbs 9)
  • brings joy to his father
  • gathers crops in the summer
  • accepts commands
  • stores up knowledge
  • shows others the way to life (Proverbs 10)
  • fools become servants to him
  • wins souls (Proverbs 11)
  • listens to advice
  • his words bring healing (Proverbs 12)
  • heeds his father’s instructions
  • his teaching is a fountain of life
  • walks with the wise and grows wiser (Proverbs 13)
  • builds up her house
  • his lips protect him
  • his crown is his wealth (Proverbs 14)

In our movie pitting the Wise in the white hat against the Fool in the black hat, we see clear distinctions. The first thing I notice is that the Wise has a relationship with the Lord. He carries around a cell phone or something with God’s Word within easy reach! He also must have a circle of wise advisers to whom he listens. He hangs out with people who have wisdom…it’s as if their smartness rubs off on each other. The Wise never reaches a point in his life where he assumes he already knows everything there is to know. I call that getting in a rut. Being a homeschool mom, I get in ruts all the time when I think I know everything there is to know about ________ (fill in the blank) only to discover I actually knew very little. (Take grammar, for example. I used to think I knew it pretty well until I sat in on a Classical Conversations Essentials class and was wowed and humbled by the knowledge of those kids!)

When he messes up and his advisers tell him he’s wrong, he doesn’t respond in anger. He responds in love. This is a biggy for me. Accepting loving criticism is hard, isn’t it? But it is wise to have a soft heart with the understanding that no one is perfect. It is wise to respond in love when someone gently shows you your transgressions. The Wise knows it is very hard to get a clear view of his position from down on the ground, so he takes correction on his tactics and his position from those he trusts who are more removed from the situation. In our Western, they may be perched in the treetops getting a bird’s eye view of the lay of the land. “You are too far west,” they may say. Whereas the Fool would scoff at their attempts to correct his position, the Wise listens…and acts accordingly.

Words of healing are his trademark. He speaks in ways that encourage and build-up others, and the knowledge he shares with other people is a fountain of life. (Who does that sound like? Jesus said He IS the living water! Can’t imagine a more important Wise character than Jesus!) Wherever he goes, he wins souls. He inspires a following. Those of us sitting in the movie theater of life root for the Wise — we want him to win because we instinctively want the one close to the Lord to be the great winner.

I can think of several Wise characters in the Bible: Moses. David. Solomon. Mary. Jesus. I can also think of some who started out making foolish decisions but ended up learning from their mistakes and becoming wise, like Jonah. David. Like me.

Proverbs teaches that achieving wisdom is a journey. We are born foolish creatures. We are born not knowing how to fend for ourselves, but little by little, we learn how to talk, to crawl, to walk, to run. We speak in words, then phrases, then sentences. It is the same with our character. We move from an inability to consider other viewpoints (can you hear your toddler scream, “MINE!” while grasping a sibling’s toy?) to an understanding that it is better to give than to receive. We are on a journey from foolishness to wisdom, and our reward is great. Those of us who have claimed Jesus have already achieved a level of wisdom that was not achieved by any effort of our own but through the call of the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the end of the journey, is it?

When I saw myself in The Fool, I was momentarily discouraged until I realized that God sees the big picture. He sees the tapestry that is my life, and He is working even today to shape it into something extraordinary for His glory. He gently shows me ways in which I am foolish. Although painful, feeling the pain and chagrin is evidence of my stepping closer and closer to wisdom. I am seeing aspects of my character that need tweaking. That is a GOOD thing. Accepting it and internalizing it helps me become Wise.

I will never be THE Wise. That title is for Christ. But I can strive to be a lifelong learner, seeking the road to wisdom.

As for our little Western pitting the Wise against the Fool, we already know the ending to that story (1 Corinthians 15):

But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

In other words…be wise.

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