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Mastering the wisdom of Solomon, one cup at a time

By Jeff Smith

Special to The SUN

Warm cup of joe in the morning. One to two scoops per six-ounce cup, burr ground instead of blade ground, filtered water at 195-205 degrees, approximately one ounce of half and half. You should clean your grinder after each use, but I don’t do that. It’s a balance of several things to get it right.

Proverbs 3:3 “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind them upon thy neck, write them on the table of thine heart.” KJV

Scripture says that Solomon was the wisest man who every lived. None would be wiser, either before or after him (1Kings 3:12).

Of all the things Solomon wrote, chapter three and verse three stands out in a unique place in the book of Proverbs. Chapter one introduces the idea that a wise person must endure the pain of unlearning in order to become wise. The second chapter begins with the idea that wisdom is not all about intellect or IQ, but about having a passion to be wise, a strong desire, a love of wisdom, which is where we get the term philosophy from. Then it goes on to talk about where we are to search for wisdom and places we should avoid when looking for good advice.

Chapter three talks about the rewards of living a wise life. It starts with the idea of  having a long life with “shalom” or peace (3:2). This term also carries with it the idea of being prosperous and blessed. After that, the chapter describes the other rewards of being wise, like having divine direction to your life, having health, wealth and lots of other good things. However the entry to a long, blessed life boils down to this one, profound verse.

Mercy and truth. This is sometimes translated as mercy and faithfulness, as in being faithful to the Law or Torah. These are presented as two terms that are poles apart. They are sort of like war and peace, love and hate, good and bad, right and wrong. Yet they don’t seem that way at first glance. The reverse of mercy would be cruelty.  The opposite of truth would be a lie, right? So why are these terms put together as some sort of matched set? Why are they so vital that Solomon says we should wrap them around our neck or write them on the tables of the heart? That suggests these two terms, when understood together are very, very important.

And he’s right, of course. The way it boiled down for me when we were raising kids was like this. “I am ready to offer understanding, to cut people slack, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to show mercy as much as I possibly can. I offer that to all I know and care about, even showing mercy to myself, whenever possible.”

“Now tell me the truth.”

Getting my facts straight, hearing people out, getting passed my own bias or the bias of others, means I may have to wait longer to decide on something. Guarding myself from jumping to conclusions is a worthy discipline. Deciding what is the right and wrong of a problem takes time to get it right. But even then I am only half done. Now I have to show mercy, as much mercy as I can. I have received mercy. I must give mercy.

Mercy without the truth means we are spineless. Truth without mercy means you become harsh and cruel, sort of like the pharisees in the time of Jesus. However, if you put them together in the right way, if you balance them out …

I love this verse. It saves me much grief and has solved many problems.

The coffee is so-so this morning, and I’m up and running.

Readers’ comments

Send your faith articles to betty@bettyslade.com (500 to 800 words).

This story was posted on November 14, 2012.