The Dream of Solomon, by Luca Giordano (circa 1694-95). God gave Solomon a wish, and Solomon’s choice said plenty about his values as he asked for the gift of wisdom. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

God's Word on Sunday: Wisdom is wasted if not used wisely

  • July 27, 2023

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time  (Year A) July 30 (1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52) 

What if we were offered the fulfillment of one wish? What would we choose? Our choice would say a lot about us and our values.

God came to Solomon in a dream and gave him that opportunity. What should I give you? Solomon gave a realistic, honest and humble reply. He recognized his youth, inexperience and the overwhelming task facing him of governing his kingdom. He possessed a good deal of self-knowledge, which is necessary for spiritual and psychological growth. He recognized how loyal, faithful and kind God had been to the people of Israel in the past, especially to his father David. We might question just how upright and righteous David was considering many of his questionable actions, but his heart had remained true to God.

Solomon asked for the gift of wisdom — the ability to discern right and wrong. If only we all had that gift, especially those who exercise authority over others and are responsible for governance. Solomon wanted to do things right and to be a good leader.

This answer was pleasing to God, especially the fact that it was not a selfish request. He did not ask for riches or the lives of his enemies. God gave him a wise and discerning heart without equal. This gave rise to traditions about Solomon’s wisdom and understanding that survived for centuries.

Solomon was seen as a genius and polymath in his own time. He was later believed to be adept at powerful and esoteric spiritual skills, but that has no foundation in the Biblical text. And although Solomon was given wisdom, he didn’t always choose to follow it. It is recorded that in his latter days he drifted towards different forms of idolatry.

Knowledge is useful and wisdom is a wonderful gift, but both must be used properly. Wisdom is useless without unwavering adherence to the path that wisdom lays before us. Let us pray both for wisdom and perseverance.  

Paul reminds us that our entire life takes place in the context of God’s loving purpose for us and for the world. Everything that occurs during our short time on Earth will eventually work for our good if we allow our love for God to draw us onward. We do not know whom God foreknew. Predestination is a vexed topic that has caused much turmoil and is best set to one side. We can be sure of one thing: those whom God calls — and hopefully it is everyone — God also shapes and forms until we are one with Him. God accomplishes this through gifts of experiences and grace until we can be glorified in the divine presence. Our lives are preparation for living in the presence of God.  

The kingdom of God is not a thing or a place, and it is difficult to describe or define. Whenever Jesus tried to explain it, He used similes, metaphors and symbols. In a sense, it is that state of dwelling in the presence of God, but it is deep inside each one of us, waiting to be discovered and awakened. The three similes that Jesus used all point to the same thing: it is not something we seize or grasp, but we must respond to the invitation by being willing to change and deny self in order to receive it. The man who found the treasure in the field had to buy the field before he could take the treasure, for it was not his field. The merchant in pursuit of the fine pearl had to be willing to sacrifice a great deal so that he could buy it. The net drags in everyone, whatever their spiritual state. The angels go to work separating the good from the bad; it is not for us to label and separate in this life. Hopefully, the bad that is discarded is the unredeemed part of everyone.

All of these insights are present in our own tradition. The scribe of whom Jesus speaks is the one anchored firmly in the tradition, but willing to quarry deeply in it in search of illumination and always eager to expand his or her horizon. The thing that we seek so earnestly is already hidden in plain sight in ourselves.