We are lumped into one group or the other. More often than not the only group that is ever reported on is the former. Well what about the rest of us? …
Why aren't we reported on, or our lives documented and televised? It seems that we can only be interesting if we are smoking, snorting or stabbing.”
That’s what Dominique Mitchell, 18, from
King Solomon was a young man and a young King, yet we see him acting with real wisdom in today’s Bible reading (1 Kings 3. 3 - 14). God asks him an entirely open question - What would you like me to give you? It’s a question to which it would be very easy to give an entirely selfish answer. Solomon could have asked for long life for himself or riches or the death of his enemies but he didn’t.
Instead, we see him make a wise request based on a wise assessment of his situation. He recognises that he is facing a huge task – ruling a people who are so many that they cannot be counted – and that he doesn’t have the life experience or knowledge to carry out the task – “I am very young and don't know how to rule.” Wisdom starts with a realistic assessment of the situation we find ourselves in. It is only once we have a realistic understanding of where our starting point is that we can begin to find ways forward. So, Solomon shows wisdom before he asks for and is given wisdom.
That makes him an example of a wise young person. In fact if you look at the way his life pans out, he actually turns the stereotype completely on its head because he is wiser as a young person than he is as an older person. In his youth he listens to God and follows God’s instructions while in his old age he listens to other human beings and worships other gods.
Jesus confronted his disciples with the same challenge when they asked him, ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child to come and stand in front of them, and said, ‘I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18. 1 – 3)
What is the wisdom of those who are greatest in the
? What is the wisdom of youth? Well, the young King says, the task is huge and I am young and inexperienced, therefore I need the leading, guidance and wisdom of God. As we are told King Solomon was later to say, ‘Remember your Creator while you are still young.’ (Ecclesiastes 12. 1) kingdom of God
Going for Growth, a Church of England report considering how we engage with and express God’s love to this generation of children and young people, whoever and wherever they may be, responds to these challenges by saying that the Church needs to listen to children and young people themselves and take seriously what it hears.
The report recognises the sadness that churches rarely have the confidence which enables them to face the devastating directness which theological questions may take on in the mouth of a child (or young person). Churches lack the humility (that we saw in the young King Solomon) to face the truth about the quality of their life and worship and to set about addressing the needs which are then identified. Instead, we want to seem wise in our own eyes instead of recognising the wisdom of youth.
The report suggests that if, instead of trying to teach good news to children (and young people), the Church tries to become good news, it will need fresh eyes to see itself. Such a church would need the confidence to deal with questions rather than always having to find the answers. It would be prepared to surrender its life and lets its institutions be transformed. A church which genuinely welcomes children (and young people), accepts their gifts and ministries, meets their needs, advocates justice, seeks new life, challenges evil with love and truth, continues to learn the values of the Kingdom by living them, so is going to be a Church which is good news not only for young people but also for all its members and for the world.
This leads us towards the second thing for us to note, which is that wisdom is not an end in itself. Solomon doesn’t ask for wisdom simply in order to be wise or knowledgeable instead he asks for wisdom in order to rule with justice. Wisdom is not an end in itself instead it is needed in order to do justice.
We see this also later on in the pages of scripture because, after Solomon, the majority of
’s Kings are not wise. Instead, unlike Solomon, they use their position and power to exploit others for their own personal gain. They oppress and exploit their people in a way that is unjust and when they are then criticised by the prophets which God sends to denounce them it is this lack of justice that they highlight. Israel
Amos speaks to the great leaders of the great nation
to say: Israel
“You people hate anyone who challenges injustice and speaks the whole truth in court. You have oppressed the poor and robbed them of their grain. And so you will not live in the fine stone houses you build or drink wine from the beautiful vineyards you plant. I know how terrible your sins are and how many crimes you have committed. You persecute good people, take bribes, and prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts.” (Amos 5. 10 – 12)
“How terrible it will be for you that stretch out on your luxurious couches, feasting on veal and lamb! You like to compose songs, as David did, and play them on harps. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest perfumes, but you do not mourn over the ruin of
. So you will be the first to go into exile.” (Amos 6. 4 – 8) Israel
What should they have been doing? What would have made them wise, not foolish? Amos says, “Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is. Hate what is evil, love what is right, and see that justice prevails in the courts.”
Wisdom is not an end in itself instead it is needed in order to do justice. At the end of wisdom there is the achievement of justice.
King Solomon is credited with summing all this up in the words of Proverbs 8:
Listen! Wisdom is calling out.
Reason is making herself heard.
On the hilltops near the road
and at the crossroads she stands.
At the entrance to the city,
beside the gates, she calls:
I appeal to all of you;
I call to everyone on earth.
Are you immature? Learn to be mature.
Are you foolish? Learn to have sense.
Listen to my excellent words;
all I tell you is right …
Choose my instruction instead of silver;
choose knowledge rather than the finest gold.
I am Wisdom, I am better than jewels;
nothing you want can compare with me.
I am Wisdom, and I have insight;
I have knowledge and sound judgment.
To honour the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil ways and false words …
I walk the way of righteousness;
I follow the paths of justice …
Those who find me find life,
and the Lord will be pleased with them.
Let us learn from one who was wise when he was young. He says:
So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, I don't enjoy life. That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away. Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly. Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street. You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep. You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous. Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will be gone.
We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets. The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break; the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered. Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us. (Ecclesiastes 12. 1 – 7)
So remember your Creator while you are still young.
The Bluebells - Young At Heart.