By REV. DR. BRIAN GIGEE
“On Being Wise”
“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God—how long do we have to wait… and treat your servants with kindness for a change? Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.” – Psalm 90:12-13
This week’s article gets published on January 6! King’s day! Western Christians hail it as the Day of Epiphany… the traditional date of remembering the visitation of three wise men (the Bible referred to them as magi) who followed a star to find the Christ child born in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago. My Orthodox friends claim it as Christmas. It is a joyful day for many! But, as in all days… we get them one at a time and I hope this day will be a good one for you!
What does it mean to be wise? How does one get there? Is it something you find? Is a permit required? What’s the cost? Is there a warranty involved? Can the wisdom a person acquires be willed to a grandchild or to someone in greater need of some? These and many other questions are asked throughout life that both challenge and provoke the need for any of us to be wise as well as reveal how unwise many of us really are.
The term, wise, is an adjective… as in when a person is described as wise it means that person has come to experience a deep understanding of life or at least has become adept in a particular part of life. It’s like your wise older cousin who always seems to give the best advice. People know when you make a decision based on careful thought and good judgment, you’ve made a wise choice. It becomes a noun when wise turns into wisdom… and that takes time. So, on a day like today I want to ask a few peculiar questions when it comes to the three kings who rode their camels to Bethlehem…
Do you know the details? They came from the east. They followed a star. It seems they knew who they were looking for… one born king of the Jews… but they didn’t know exactly where to look. So, were they wise to stop and ask King Herod for directions? Most men never stop to ask directions. And was it a wise move to ask the current king of the Jews about the NEW king of the Jews? King Herod’s biblical scholars were able to provide directions to Bethlehem but seemed not as wise as they returned to their books and learning not accompanying the magi to worship the newborn king, Jesus. And did they demonstrate a truer and greater wisdom by offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to someone who hadn’t done a thing yet? Maybe their best demonstration of wisdom was listening to the message of an angel from God in a dream directing them home by a different route. St. Matthew says they outwitted Herod! There’s a lesson here, yes? Faith matters!
And what does all this mean? Wisdom is a gift. It comes by paying attention… and it comes by seeing one’s own place in the world! It is an outcome of what we read in Proverbs… “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (9:10)
Rumi once said… “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Or like Tolstoy claimed… “We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” So, to be wise, then, is knowing we really know very little at all… and as we adopt this perspective, we open our hearts and minds to learn and be inspired… the Godly surprise at daybreak causing us to dance and skip all the day long!
The Rev. Dr. Brian K. Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland, having pastored four churches over the last four decades in Texas and Louisiana. You can read more following his blog ‘murmurings’ at https://briangigee.wordpress.com/. Comments and / or questions can be sent to [email protected].