Today’s readings can be found in Track One, here. I’d like to focus on two short passages. First, from Kings, the request from Solomon to God: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” And this, from Ephesians: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
All too often these days we seem to value not wisdom but cleverness. Or, not wisdom but canniness, or glibness, or bombast, or ostentation, or celebrity, or riches, or anything or anybody that seems to temporarily hold a trump card. But wisdom, true wisdom, is something for which many of us seem not to have time, or patience, or appreciation. Unlike Solomon, we seem to value not “an understanding mind” but a facile mind, a quick answer, a simple-sounding solution, and, most of all, rapid gratification of our personal and collectives ids. We seek to cultivate those qualities in ourselves, and we even seek to choose, in many walks of life, our leaders — in other words, we seek to follow the sorts of people — who show guile rather than wisdom, who value worldly success rather than truth.
Well, sometimes we are stuck with leaders others have chosen for us, whether in commerce of in politics or even in social activities. But we are not stuck with our own acquiescence to those values; we can choose to strive to inculcate in ourselves, or have others help inculcate in us, not just “an understanding mind,” but a habit of mind that specifically seeks not just any understanding, but specifically to “understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Understanding God’s will is often, even usually, not easy. In fact, His immediate will — unlike His will for eternity, which clearly and unambiguously is for our love, redemption, salvation, and joy — is often opaque, murky, and confusing.
The key to wisdom, though, lies not in the easy understanding of God’s will, but in the Solomonic desire to understand it — or, rather, the choice to try to understand it and follow it, rather than to follow another course. This is a choice we can make for ourselves, no matter who the world or our various societies choose as “leaders.” (Of course, if we have any say in the matter, we should avoid a selection of leaders who are guileful rather than Solomonic, but that’s a slightly different subject.)
So, in our own lives, our own minds, in tending our own gardens, let us, like Solomon, seek an understanding mind, and let us leave ourselves open to the discernment of wisdom and of God’s will — which, in truth, is almost a redundancy, except that nothing is redundant about true wisdom.