Pastors love to tell stories. A particularly fun one comes from Rev. Dr. Tim Boggess. He tells about the “most perfect prayer [he] ever heard.”
“And it came out of the mouth of a six year-old boy. [His mother and he] were at a local swimming pool and her son was standing at the deep end, his toes curled over the edge. Still unsure of himself in the water, he stood there for what seemed to her like a very long time. Hesitating. Meditating. Palpitating. And just when it seemed that he was going to back away from the edge, he looked up to the sky, put his hands together, and said: "O Lord, give me skills or GIVE ME GILLS!" And he jumped. (Rev. Dr. Tim Boggess, sermon on http://day1.org/6757-skills_and_gills)
I love it. That little boy knew he needed some divine inspiration going into that pool!
What we read in 1 Kings today is essentially Solomon’s “give me skills or give me gills” prayer. Solomon is about to plunge into the deep end at the start of his reign and he knows he has some big shoes (or flippers) to fill.
He’s about to be in the deep end for numerous reasons. Historians guess Solomon was in his young 20s at the time he took the throne. “His father was David, the great king of Israel, the slayer of Goliath, ..., the unifier of the tribes, a master musician and wordsmith, the "man after God's own heart."” (Boggess)
My knees would be shaking a bit, too, if that’s what I saw from my perspective on the diving board.
On top of that, in the time that passed between the 2nd/3rd chapters we read today, a LOT happened. A main priest was banned from the priesthood; Solomon’s brother and David’s former general were both executed; Solomon married the Pharoah’s daughter; and the temple was built.
You think you’ve been busy this summer?! Solomon has a LOT going on! This is only the beginning of his reign as King.
Enter Solomon’s prayer for wisdom from God. I definitely think that was a good move on his part!
It’s really a beautiful prayer, with some things to note.
Solomon prays as a servant of God.
He has a realistic view of himself, stating “I am only a child” (or a young man).
He acknowledges that God’s presence is needed.
All of this is said with humility.
The prayer is the lesson from sharing this story….humility in wisdom.
Seeing as how Solomon was in a position of leadership - the state and the church were not separated in that society - we have a great deal to learn from this story.
First, the key is humility
Cameron Howard (workingpreacher.org) states “Leadership, be it governmental, religious, or otherwise, requires us to hold in tension humility and confidence, finitude and limitless capacity, the gifts we have and the gifts we have yet to acquire. Solomon is by no means a "perfect" model for leadership, as his prayer reminds us. At the same time, Solomon's prayer also testifies that effective leadership demands boldness, calling us to act in wisdom even as we pray to have wisdom enacted in us.”
To balance “acting in wisdom even as we pray to have wisdom” is similar to a Karl Rahner quote I referenced last week….of saying we are Christian even has we are becoming Christian. Here, we see an example of having wisdom, even as we pray for wisdom.
This story teaches us to not put anyone on a pedestal - to not idolize even the wisest of people we see. Solomon was wise in many things, but not in all. In his life, we know that he was idolatrous and eventually swayed away from his love of God. He was not perfect. Even God-granted wise people will not make every decision perfectly.
As we look to our leaders - particularly this week as we hear stories regarding leaders of this country and leaders of the wider church - it is wise for us to remember that even the wisest, even those who have prayed for God’s wisdom to be bestowed upon them, will not make the wisest decisions in every aspect of life.
It does not excuse the behavior. It does not make those wrong decisions right.
It does challenge us to remember that, just as Solomon was a part of the One Body, so are those that frustrate us with unwise decisions.
It does remind us of the importance to check our own humility and servitude.
We can learn from Solomon’s story that the example we set, as leaders in the community, in our churches, in our workplace, in our families, matters.
We can learn, when coupled with our Ephesians verses, that wisdom means to let go of ignorance and instead understand God’s will, as best we can. ...that wisdom means to not let ourselves lose our rational and reasonable minds, and instead to welcome God’s Spirit to lead us. (Side note: I know so many of you are looking at that “don’t get drunk on wine” verse. Really, when coupled with other verses not condemning the use of wine and with our own life experiences, I think we can agree that moderation, if possible, is the wise approach.)
Further, we can learn (with both of these selections) that wisdom means making good use of time. Interestingly, Ralph Martin (“Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon”) points to the Greek word that’s translated into “make good use of time.” It’s exagorazomenoi. Great word, huh? It’s rudimentary meaning comes from commercial marketing vocabulary, meaning “snapping up all chances of a bargain that are available.” In other words, wisdom means “snapping up the opportunities in a day”...be good consumers of your day.
And unlike our sometimes over-achieving 1st world mentality, this could mean...
Snapping up the opportunity to watch a sunset.
Snapping up the opportunity to look a person on the street in the eye with respect.
Snapping up the opportunity to see yourself in the mirror and giving thanks for what you have.
Snapping up the opportunity to extend forgiveness, to listen to another’s story, to humbly serve another, to be a voice for those whose voices are silenced.
True wisdom is knowledge, coupled with love and humility. It is not self-seeking; it seeks to serve God’s will.
No matter where we are serving in our lives, we do well to pray daily, as servants of each other, for Divine Wisdom.
We do well to hold our leaders to standards of humility and wisdom, knowing that they will not make every decision perfectly.
We do well to snap up the opportunities presented to us each day.
Scripture: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 & Ephesians 5:15-20