The Gift Of Wisdom
What should we desire more than wisdom? It perfects all the virtues. It is the source of our truest humility. We are not talking about scholarly, or earthly wisdom here, but of that wisdom that comes only from God. It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul echoes today’s passage in his letter to the Romans when he writes: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God…If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14,17)
Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written in the 3rd century B.C. when Judea was under the control of the Hellenistic (Greek) kings from Egypt. When I read in this passage that “wisdom…benefits those who see the sun” I am reminded of the Greek philosopher, Plato, and his “Allegory of the Cave.” The Allegory describes the movement of the soul from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. It describes people being held as prisoners at the bottom of a cave, who are chained and unable to move, and who can only see straight ahead of them where they are able to observe only shadows moving across the back wall of the cave. Since this is all that they know, the shadows represent their experience of reality and all that is true. One of them is freed from his chains and begins a painful and laborious effort to climb out of the darkness of the cave into the light and into the experience of what is truly real. When the freed prisoner makes it out into the light of day, after letting his eyes adjust, he is finally able to look directly at the sun and know it as it is, in its fullness. For Plato, the sun represents the highest idea in the world of ideas, that is, the Good, which he believes is the source from which all good things flow. Though Plato’s understanding is pre-Christian and pagan, his allegory is useful here.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, is also speaking allegorically here, using the sun as a sign to represent the highest form of knowledge that we can achieve as human beings, wisdom. This wisdom that Qoheleth speaks of though, is not the wisdom of the world. He contrasts the wisdom of the world to show how much more superior is the wisdom that comes from God. He says troubling things like: “Sorrow is better than laughter; when the face is sad, the heart grows wise. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of merriment. It is better to listen to the rebuke of the wise than to listen to the song of fools.” (Eccl. 7:3-5) He also warns against vanity and falling into things like extortion and bribery for these are the things of fools and corrupted hearts. Qoheleth tells us to consider first and always, the works of God. To keep our eyes, our ears, our full focus on God. This is wisdom in its purest sense.
From the Christian perspective, Jesus is the “sun,” the light, the fount of wisdom, that we must always keep our eyes on. To finally see him for who he is, I AM, is to finally be able to see the sun, that is, the wisdom of God in the flesh. Jesus is the One who, “…because of the tender mercy of our God, [is] the rising sun from heaven [that has come] to shine on those living in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79) If we are followers of Christ, this “wisdom” is our inheritance. It is a good thing to seek it, to put our full trust in it, and to humbly obey it with our whole hearts, our whole minds, our whole souls and our whole strength. In this wisdom only will we find our happiness.
Lord, by your continuing love and grace, free us from the ignorant, prideful chains of our sins. Help us on the difficult path of our journey toward your wisdom. Strengthen in us a desire to turn away from the darkness of our sins and, in your mercy, gift us with the wisdom to turn toward the light that is your Son, Jesus Christ. For it is only in him that we will find our truest happiness here and forever. We pray, as always, in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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