Philippians 1:9-10. NRSV
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless
When God asked King Solomon what gift he would like to have, he said, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” This pleased God so much that Solomon immediately received the gift of wisdom. Indeed, that is what he is best known for. (1 Kings 3:9, 12)
The gift of wisdom, the ability to determine what is best, is a precious gift indeed. When we are filled with love for all of our siblings, it becomes easier to see what course of action is better for all people. Clean air is good for all people. Clean water is good for all people. Healthy forests are good for all people. Poison-free food is good for all people. That’s pretty easy.
It becomes complicated when the desire for profit gets in the way. Companies who fill the air and water with pollutants would incur a great cost to clean up their act, and that would greatly reduce profits. Cutting the Forestry Department’s budget for wildfire management pleases people who want lower taxes. Factory farms that spray crops with all kinds of noxious chemicals to increase production would make less profit.
We can do this kind of comparison with almost any issue in our society. Very few things are either entirely good or entirely bad. Wisdom is the ability to discern what is best. And wisdom is a very rare commodity, indeed. “For wisdom is like her name; she is not readily perceived by many.” (Sirach 6:22)
Wisdom begins with a willingness to listen carefully and with an open mind to both sides of an issue in order to seek the truth that often lies somewhere in between. According to the Psalmist: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. (Psalm 111:10). and “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice. (Psalm 37:30).
Wisdom begins with knowledge. Knowledge requires that we look beyond the surface arguments to determine all relevant facts. Wisdom requires that we gain insight into the context and background of any given situation or report, and often requires questioning what we think we know. The knowledge we gain in this way leads to the ability to discern what is right or wrong, just or unjust, what falls on the side of love and what does now.
Loving God, give us wisdom. Give us willingness to learn as much as we can before making decisions. May our love for the other lead us to acts of righteousness and justice. Amen