“How much better to acquire wisdom than gold! To acquire understanding is more desireable than silver” (Proverbs 16:16). Wisdom has always been in short supply, but God offers it to us at all times. Understanding is the first step toward wisdom and is the offspring of our curiosity to know the truth about things. And the greatest knowledge, the highest truth we have been given to ability to know, is the knowledge of God. The deeper our desire to know, the better our questions become, and the more able we are to find the wisdom and the understanding that we seek.
The pre-Christian philosopher, Aristotle, expressed this part of our nature in the first sentence of his book The Nicomachean Ethic: “Man by nature desires to know.” God made us with both intellect and will. This desire to know comes from him. The ultimate end of our desire to know the truth about things is to know God. In knowing God, we come to the wisdom and the understanding that, by his grace, leads us to love him and to serve him, our neighbors, and ourselves willingly and joyfully. To know God, the source of all that is good, true, and beautiful, and to willingly choose to live in accord with his law, is wisdom and true understanding. This wisdom and understanding leads us to know ourselves as sons and daughters of God.
But, because our nature is fallen, affected by the sin of Adam, our desire to know God and all that is good, true, and beautiful can become distorted. The danger for us in this quest for wisdom and understanding lies in three things: sloth (laziness), fear, and rebellion. Why? Sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is marked by things like indifference to one’s duties. Mentally, it can refer to a lack of any feeling about self or others. It gives rise to boredom, rancor, apathy and passivity, or indolence. It is a sluggishness of mind that neglects the work that is required of us to do the good. In its worst dimensions it is a refusal of the joy that comes from God. It is a refusal to accept the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord.
The knowledge of God leads us to wisdom and understanding. But this wisdom and understanding demands courage and sacrifice of us. It requires us to learn how to love, not just those who are closest to us, but the unloved and the neglected, as well as the unlovable. This requires us to go beyond ourselves, to take the risks of loving others in a world that often does not understand this love, or that refuses it and rebels against it. These are real fears. If we have not developed a relationship with God, these fears can cause us to fall back into laziness and indifference, or into rebellion. But there is another, life giving, empowering kind of fear too, and that is the fear of the Lord. This fear, rooted in the knowledge of who God is and who we are in relationship to him, leads us to true wisdom and proper understanding. To know God, is to love God. To love God is to be liberated from the false fears that hold us back, that cause us to sin against God, ourselves, and our neighbors. The fear of the Lord is the wise fear of losing that eternal relationship with the One Who Is Love, the One Who Is all goodness and all that is true. It is this understanding that leads us the wisdom of loving others as Jesus loved us. This is wisdom is more valuable than gold. This understanding is more precious than mere silver.
Lord, Give us the courage and the fortitude to seek you with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. GIve us the wisdom that the scriptures call, “fear of the Lord.” “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” St. Augustine. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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