Lutheran Church of Elmont

Dear Friends in Christ:

“Wise men still seek him.” was a bumper sticker I grew up seeing in the sixties and seventies. The Bible Study groups have been working their way through a great deal of wisdom literature in the Apocrypha. Since it is Jewish wisdom literature, living rightly is inseparable from knowing God’s will and taking care of the poor. It deals with the question of how to live rightly, and of course, it points out how not to live. As a general distinction, while knowledge asks the question of “how is the thing to be done.” wisdom asks the question of “whether the thing ought to be done.”

This might not sound like much of a difference, but it is huge. Think of the teenager whose friends are very well versed in the knowledge of how to get high. They know how to get pot, alcohol, crack, etc. They know how to bilk parents out of money and come up with creative lies to cover their symptoms. They share their knowledge freely and have much to teach. Who teaches the teenager to ask the question of whether one ought to get high and then, when rehearsing the implications, deciding not to? That is wisdom. We are in a culture that highly values knowledge and is rather ambivalent toward wisdom.

Our culture has thrown over the wisdom steeped moral traditions of Christianity in favor of the knowledge based values of self-referential pop psychology. The aforementioned teenager should do whatever she or he wants whenever she or he feels she or he is ready for it. Follow your bliss! Don’t let anybody steel your joy. If it feels good do it. It is your life and your decision.

Maybe somebody along the line should help teenagers and everyone else develop some wisdom. Maybe someone ought to model asking the question “Ought I to do this thing I am considering.” Maybe someone should rip the smart phones from their hands, turn off the computers, have conversations with them, teach them that there is a right order of things and there are things which one ought never to do. Maybe someone should take them to church where the license of “whenever you feel you are ready it” is condemned and replaced with the freedom of “Thy will be done,” and life in the Spirit.

How does one live rightly? Wise men and women still seek him. The problem is that their numbers are not growing—quite the opposite, there are fewer people seeking out communities of wisdom including the church. Maybe it is because so many people know so much.

Yours in Christ,

John Shepherd McKenzie