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Build a wise house, one cup at a time

By Jeff Smith
Special to The PREVIEW

I love getting up in the morning, just me and the wisdom scriptures in the Bible, getting a little wiser every day.

Wise people handle life better than fools, you know, but it turns out becoming wise is more complex than I thought, and it is not easy.

Long talk with my wife last night about who is not speaking to whom in church. Some of it is now being posted on Facebook.

I’m up, coffee in hand, shaking my head. In truth, I’m relieved I’m not part of the problem, this time, as far as I can tell.

Solomon talks about this and he never ceases to amaze. I am in chapter nine of his Proverbs and this is a crowning point of his ideas. This chapter first talks about wise ideas ruling us as a houseful of people, rather than just me. It’s like a feast that others would want to come to. So, if we are not as foolish as we once were, and we all get together, this is a good thing.

Then this happens.

Brace yourself.

Wisdom says, “He who gives teaching to a man of pride (other translation: arrogant cynic) gets shame for himself; he who says sharp words to a sinner (or wicked person) gets a bad name. Do not say sharp words to a man of pride, or he will have hate for you; make them clear to a wise man, and you will be dear to him. Give teaching to a wise man, and he will become wiser; give training to an upright man, and his learning will be increased. The fear of the Lord is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One gives a wise mind. For by me your days will be increased, and the years of your life will be long. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if your heart is full of pride, you only will have the pain of it” Proverbs 9:7-12.

So, a bunch of us who want to be wise get together and we get this? Solomon says sharp words, pride, hatred, shame, blame shifting and slander, happen here. Love, wisdom, teaching, learning, making things clear, and owning our problems also happen. All should be so scared of God that they quit doing the mean, selfish, evil things they often do to get their way. Only then will they start to learn something.

This is a healthy process? Yep.

It seems painful. Yeah, sometimes.

Sounds like church.

This is just how things are in a house based on wisdom. Under this roof the rules are clear, certain things we do get exposed for all to see and the labels, good and bad, stick for a while. If love is to flow between us, then truth must blossom and errors must sometimes be pointed out and put right. I do not envy those who have to spearhead this. Most churches attract people whose lives aren’t going well. I know I didn’t come to Jesus because all was mellow and on cruise control. Yet, I am doing better, and we are doing better, not because it is tranquil there, but because it is real.

One aspect of being wise that I love is that wisdom is not about having a college degree. It has nothing to do with race, gender, status or career. It is much about attitude and being able to learn. There are college-trained fools and wise people who can’t read, and the sign I am making progress is that I coerce less and serve more.

Sharp words that sting are part of this process. Fools don’t know this. There are certain wise things I can only learn as part of a group and I should expect some conflict when I grow. Seeing real failures, valid sins, true lapses in character, and not just self-serving, fault-finding, is how we prosper. It is how we shed the bad habits that trap us, and the foolish beliefs that steer us wrong. The payoff is in building us up, turning fools into stable, savvy, shrewd, mature people and it is the coolest process in the whole wide world. I love being part of it.

Someone once said that it’s what you learn after you know everything that counts. I like this. We all should.

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This story was posted on August 29, 2013.