Wise or Unwise?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
The words and deeds of evil people are an invitation to death.
Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 - 2:22
The Wisdom of Solomon is an apocryphal book written sometime between 100 BC and 40 AD. The purpose of the book is to make wisdom an appealing pursuit and get the reader to desire a life of virtue over wickedness. It also serves to call back those who are in danger of walking away from their faith in God in exchange for the faulty wisdom of the world.
While this work is not considered canonical by Protestants and is an apocryphal work for Catholics, it does us good to examine it as the alternative text for the lectionary this week to gain better insight into the Jewish world in which Jesus and his followers lived and examine what sort of literature was available in their time.
It is easy to place ourselves in the position of the righteous and feel as though the rest of the world is unwise, ungodly, and seeking our ruin. But this passage from Solomon was written to fellow Jews—God’s chosen people—who were in danger of falling away from their faith in God. So, before we think too badly of the world or too highly of ourselves, let us examine ourselves to determine if we are among the wise or in the ranks of the unwise.
The first five chapters of Wisdom of Solomon exhort God’s people to seek justice and righteousness. In a classic Jewish negative argument, the author describes the life of the ungodly as a counterpoint to a life of righteousness. In other words, in order to live a life of righteousness, one needs to understand what a life of unrighteousness looks like.
A major struggle for the unrighteous is they don’t understand that God “made us in the image of his own eternity.” 2:23 Their pursuit of things that ultimately lead to their own demise is a tragedy rooted in misunderstood reality. They are trapped in a covenant of deception,
“they were led astray … They did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls.” 2:21-22
The reader is made to feel at least a small measure of mercy for those who don’t know God.
This text serves as a warning to us today, much the same as when originally written. If we consider ourselves among the righteous, we are not to be haughty or proud. We are allowed to be gratefully confident as we grow into a deeper relationship with our God. But we must realize that those around us deserve the same mercy and love God extends to them. We must hang on to that patience that endures all things and demonstrate what a loving relationship with God and others looks like.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
How can we demonstrate mercy to those who live with a bad philosophy of life? Toward whom do you need to demonstrate loving patience?
Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times when I am proud. Help me be more humble in my walk with you. Teach me to love others as you love them. Help me to see with your eyes and understand we have all been led astray at times. Lord Jesus, have mercy. Amen.
READ THE SCRIPTURE IN CONTEXT:
In spite of this, the ungodly called out to death by what they did and said. Thinking that death was their friend, they lost their resolve and made a treaty with death. Let them have each other: death and the ungodly belong together!
By reasoning in their twisted way, the ungodly said: Our lives are short and painful. There is no antidote for death; no one has come back from the grave. All of us came into being by chance. When our lives are over, it will be just as if we had never been. The breath in our nostrils is mere smoke. Reason is just a spark in the beating of our hearts. When that spark is extinguished, the body will be turned into ashes. The spirit will evaporate into thin air. Over time, our names will be forgotten. No one will remember our deeds. Our lives will pass away like the last wisps of a cloud. Our lives will be dispersed like a morning mist chased away by the sun and weighed down by the day’s heat. Our time here is like a shadow passing by. There’s no turning back from death. It has been sealed, and no one will alter it.
Come then! Let’s enjoy all the good things of life now. Let’s enjoy creation to the fullest as we did in our youth. Let’s drink our fill of expensive wines and enjoy fine perfumes. Let’s pluck every fresh blossom of spring as we pass by. Let’s crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let’s make sure that no meadow is left untouched by our high-spirited fun. Let’s leave evidence everywhere that we made the most of this life, because this life is all we have.
Let’s take advantage of the day laborer who does what’s right. Let’s not be afraid to abuse the widow. Let’s show that we couldn’t care less for the gray hair of our elders. May strength be our only law and determine what’s right, for it’s clear to us that what is weak is worthless.
Let’s lie in ambush for the one who does what is right. He’s a nuisance to us. He always opposes our actions. He blames us because we have failed to keep the Law. He condemns us for turning our backs on our upbringing. He boasts of his knowledge of God. He even calls himself the Lord’s servant. He exposes our secret plans. Just to look at him makes us sick. His life isn’t like the lives of others. His ways are completely different. He thinks we’re frauds. He avoids us and our actions as though we’re unclean. Instead, he blesses the final days of those who do what’s right. He even boasts that God is his Father.
Let’s see if his words are true. Let’s put him to the extreme test and see what happens. If this man who does the right thing is indeed God’s son, then God will assist him. God will rescue him from the hand of those who oppress him. Let’s test him by assaulting and torturing him. Then we will know just how good he really is. Let’s test his ability to endure pain. Let’s condemn him to a disgraceful death: according to him, God should show up to protect him.
This was how the ungodly reasoned, but they were mistaken. Their malice completely blinded them. They didn’t know of God’s secret plan. They didn’t hope for the reward that holiness brings. They didn’t consider the prize they would win if they kept their whole beings free from stain.
Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:22