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  • Rick LoPresti

The poor man's wisdom

David is one of the great heroes of the Bible. His defeat of Goliath is one of the most famous accounts in the scriptures (1Sam 17). He endured great adversity and served God in many ways. Although he was not perfect, he repented when he failed (2Sam 12, Ps 51). He desired to build a temple for the Lord, but that task was assigned to his son Solomon (2Sam 7). Although he could not build the temple, he designed it and stored supplies for Solomon (1Chr 22-29). He also taught Solomon wisdom (Prov 4:1-4). After David died and Solomon became king, he prayed for wisdom, and God gave it to him abundantly (1Ki 3, 1Ki 4:31, 1Ki 10:1).

Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Ecclesiastes is largely a lament of the emptiness of a life lived prioritizing the earthly and material over the spiritual and eternal. In that book, he said, “There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard (Ecc 9:15-16).” Why would a man’s financial status determine whether people would listen to him or not? That is the value system of this world. It is assumed by many that the wealthy are successful, but what is the definition of success? Is it based on the saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins”? There are several flaws with that theory. One is that some people gain wealth by inheritance and did nothing for it. Others gain wealth through a lack of principles. They lie, cheat, steal, backstab, and otherwise sin their way to material gain at the expense of their soul. They sacrifice faith in God for temporal means. Others gain wealth through work but lack character and wisdom in other areas. Some sacrifice their marriage and family for gain through a lack of balance. If money equals success, then why do rich people get divorced, get addicted to drugs, commit suicide, etc? Some rich people think because they were successful in one area, they are experts in every area, and they offer their “wisdom” on areas they have no expertise in.

People also make assumptions about the poor. Sometimes these are true, especially if there are opportunities around them that they can and do not take to improve their lot. However, that does not mean they are totally worthless. A poor man may have more wisdom in some ways than a rich one. This points to a broader problem with humanity. We judge people based on false criteria. It goes well beyond financial issues. We determine who deserves to be listened to on many faulty bases. Famous people are often the last people to listen to on many things. This can even be found among Christians. Just because someone is well known or holds a certain position does not automatically make them right about everything. All people have strengths and weaknesses, and all are susceptible to error. I have often heard people repeat something someone said just because of who said it without taking any time to validate it. I have even been told to my face when I saw people doing this and I dared to point out that perhaps there was an error in the statement they were parroting that it could not be because so-and-so said it.

We tend to limit who we listen to based on if they fit our criteria for who we validate in our minds and who we don’t. Sometimes we miss an opportunity to gain a nugget of truth or wisdom because of its source. We must certainly be careful about sources and statements and evaluate them by scripture (1Jn 4:1-2, etc.). The devil masquerades his lies as truth (Mt 7:15, 2Cor 11:13-14, etc.). However, we should remember that God used Balaam’s donkey to speak to him (Num 22). We must not limit God and dismiss things out of hand just because they are the poor man’s wisdom.

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