Real riches are the riches possessed inside.B.C. Forbes, founder of Forbes magazine
When people gauge success in consumer society, it’s typically based on salary and the accumulation of wealth/material possessions. As you make more money, and amass more money and possessions, you continue to be more and more “successful.”
It’s no accident that the word more was used four times just in the last sentence. When we define success based on the definition consumer culture has given us, we are always wanting more. More money. More stuff. More salary raises. But more isn’t always better. In fact, continuously striving for more can be detrimental to our health, our contentment, and our spiritual life.
Consumer culture wants us to strive for more money because then we will spend more money and buy more things. But God wants us to think of wisdom as better than money.
Wisdom and its Importance
Wisdom and knowledge are sometimes used interchangeably in contemporary language, but they are actually different (though connected). Knowledge is learning and knowing things; wisdom is the ability to apply one’s knowledge when the need arises. For example, knowing and remembering Bible verses is knowledge– being able to apply Bible verses to our everyday lives is wisdom.
God values wisdom, and we see over and over in Scripture that wisdom is important:
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,Proverbs 4:7
and whatever else you get, get insight.
In fact, much of the Book of Proverbs has the constant theme of wisdom versus folly, and the importance of gaining wisdom and living wisely.
Wisdom is Better Than Money
Wisdom itself is important, but we also learn that God has very different priorities than consumer culture. God wants us to gain wisdom, rather than constantly looking to gain money.
In 1 Kings 3:1-15, we read about King Solomon and wisdom. God comes to him in a dream, and God asks him what he’d like God to give him. Rather than asking for wealth or anything else that society deems important, Solomon asks for wisdom to rule well: “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?” (v. 9)
God is “pleased” (v. 10) that Solomon’s priorities are correctly aligned with God’s priorities, and responds to Solomon’s request:
God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”1 Kings 3:11-14
So because Solomon didn’t ask to live a long time, or for wealth, or for the defeat of his enemies– but instead asked for the wisdom to govern well– God grants him his request. Wisdom, then, is of greater importance to God than the other things Solomon could have asked for.
What’s incredibly interesting about this story is that God then gives Solomon riches and honor, even though Solomon didn’t ask for them. Riches and honor aren’t bad in themselves, then– but for God, wisdom should be prioritized and prized over riches and honor. It’s the striving for money over wisdom that gets us into trouble.
Choosing Wisdom over Money
Consumer culture tells us that our greatest desire should be for money and things. King Solomon’s greatest desire was for wisdom. Solomon’s desire was aligned with God’s desire for us; when we choose (with God’s help) wisdom over money, we are living the life God wants for us. We are better able to love and serve God and others when we first seek wisdom and wise living, instead of putting money first.
How much better to get wisdom than gold,Proverbs 16:16
to get insight rather than silver!
How is God inviting you to choose wisdom over money?
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