Jim McKenzie: Teaching Children to Value Wisdom
By: Jim McKenzie
Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life – but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king – wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” — 2 Chronicles 1:11-12
As I read this first chapter of the second book of Chronicles, I find myself imagining this somewhat outlandish proposition: God is standing before me with His arms outstretched and His hands closed in a fist. Then He slowly unfolds the fingers of His right hand to reveal a hand full of His wisdom. I look at it for a moment, excited at the invitation it suggests. Before I can reach for it, I see His left hand is also opened. In His palm is a small scrap of paper. As I look more closely at it, I soon recognize the pink edges and computer print. It is unmistakably a lottery ticket. I know immediately that it has the combination of winning numbers for tonight’s drawing. Overwhelmed even more by this offering, I am eager to grab the ticket. Before I can even extend my arm, both hands close tightly. “Choose one,” He says. Which hand should I choose? Fame and Fortune? Knowledge and Wisdom? Because this is a hypothetical situation, and I am supposed to be a mature Christian, the answer appears obvious. I’m supposed to choose wisdom. Any fool would know that. But do I? Do I choose to pursue wisdom when faced with other more tantalizing endeavors?
More than anything else, Solomon desired wisdom and knowledge. And he paid a price to attain it. He passed over an easy opportunity to acquire wealth or riches or honor or the defeat of his enemies. He didn’t ask for health or long life. He said simply, “Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” Solomon recognized that to be a person of influence would require wisdom more than fame or fortune. Are we mature enough to recognize the greater value of wisdom? Or do we instead settle for instant gratification? The wise man will quickly grab wisdom from the hand of God, knowing that, from Solomon’s example, blessing and prosperity will soon manifest itself as the fruit of this wisdom. A wise man recognizes that you don’t have to choose between the two. Choose from the right hand and you can still have both. A winning lottery ticket? Millions of dollars? Probably not. But can you really put a price tag on a life of peace? Wisdom allows you to have your cake and eat it too.
Education, once considered the foundation of a strong nation, has taken a backseat as spoiled Americans go joyriding down the streets of prosperity. The rags-to-riches success stories on Wall Street, the latest professional athlete signing a multi-million dollar contract, and the next group of teenaged boys thrust into Hollywood stardom, all continue to plant false seeds of aspirations into our children. While some in our society have arrived at success through the widely acclaimed shortcut of good fortune, the greater truth, the unpublicized truth, is that “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” In a world where the cause and effect relationship between wisdom and success has been distorted, it is imperative that we not lose sight of what is really important. We must diligently motivate our children towards wisdom. There are no shortcuts to success. There is no instant recipe for prosperity. Students who turn their nose up at authority, and their thumbs down at education, turn their backs on wisdom and knowledge. Does wisdom only come through schools and textbooks? Certainly not. But undoubtedly, schooling is a time of training and developing, raising up our children to know diligence, discipline, and purpose. If we allow our children to aimlessly wander through the hallways of our schools and the teen years of their lives, when will they acquire the appetite for wisdom? After they’ve feasted on foolishness and swallowed the consequences of poor decisions? After they’ve tasted the bitterness of undisciplined living?
While the world offers our children fistfuls of materialism, wrapped with instant fame, credit limits, get-rich-quick schemes, and promises of unearned high paying jobs, God quietly waits with his right hand of wisdom extended to them. “If anyone lacks wisdom,” James wrote, “Let him ask it of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given him.” We must continue to remind our children of the source of wisdom and its importance in their lives, lest they be destined to don the proverbial dunce cap and sit shamefully in the corner of complacency. All because we let them reach for the wrong hand.