Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pondering a Why

God has a thing about humility. More than 90 references throughout Scripture mention it. Whether it's an admonishment for us to be humble, or the plight of individuals who choose pride, it's clear he "saves" and "hears the desires" of the humble (Job 22:29; Psalm 10:17). He leads, teaches and gives them grace (Psalm 25:9; James 4:6).

None of that really surprises me; it's only logical a humble person should be more appealing. We are certainly more likely to offer aid to or desire to be around people who aren't insistent upon having their way. And it's certainly easier to teach someone who's actually willing to be taught.

But Proverbs 11:2 has me a little stumped. It reads: "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom" (NASB) or "Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom" (NLT).

The first part, I get. I can't count the number of times I've spoken with great assurance that something "will" be, only to have it blow up in my face, or never even materialize. In those times, I felt deeply "dishonored," or "disgraced." (I've come to realize that's part of the process of maturity. Adding "maybe" or "perhaps" to statements you're not sure about or can't control helps minimize the number of egg-on-the-face moments!) But what about the second part of the verse? "Why," I ponder, "does humility bring about wisdom?"

Humility comes from the root word humilis which means "lowly, insignificant, on the ground." As in humus: the dark organic material in soils, produced by the decomposition of vegetable or animal matter and essential to the fertility of the earth. Not a pleasant thought at first; but did you catch that last part? "Essential to the fertility of the earth." In other words, when the natural part of something (or someone) is brought or broken down, a rich environment for growth is created. Wow, that speaks volumes, not the least of which is that fertile soil is for those who follow me, not for myself.

I've always understood wisdom to be distinct from knowledge in that it's knowing when and in what manner to do something, not just the mechanics of an activity. This seems to be on par with the roots of the word wisdom which include: "wits" or "to see," or "to know" (as in a vision).

So, back to my original question: "Why does humility bring about wisdom?" Since humility is deference to another and wisdom is a broader vision, I've come up with three possible theories:
1. Humility brings a deeper knowledge and understanding of human nature, thus enabling the humble to know what to expect from people--their behaviors, reactions and emotions, whether good or bad--because the humble genuinely listen and observe with open hearts and minds, and therefore know how to respond in times of crisis.
2. Humility brings a vision toward the future that's bigger than oneself or one's cluster of friends. Humble people expect their lives to be broken and spent for the sake of the Kingdom, so they choose to say "no" to the temptations to assuage their desire for the comfortable and familiar. In doing so, they recognize they're only saying, "later" to their desires, not "never."
3. Humility recognizes one's own inabilities, frailties and incompetences, and in wisdom allows God and others to help and aid when needed. The humble realize they don't have it all together, their lives aren't perfect and being "strong" is a facade. They show their wisdom, then, by admitting their inadequacies and weaknesses and allowing others to "invade" their lives with compassionate love, further strengthening the testimony of the believers and the bond of discipleship.
What I love is the fact this Proverb is an illustration of how practical and realistic the Word of God really is. It applies to real life and real people. It's not just a book of theory and conjecture. God really does want us to know how to function effectively in the world he created. I know I need all the help I can get.

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity (Psalm 37:3-7, 11).

If you have any thoughts or examples of why humility brings wisdom, please comment.

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