Disoriented Wisdom

Jun 22, 2012
Guest post by Matt Bianco

When we think of wisdom, we often think of Solomon as the embodiment of it. Solomon’s wisdom came primarily as a gift from God but he also studied the animals and plants of the world, further developing this gift and he undoubtedly learned from his parents as well. His wisdom eventually became the Proverbs.

As Solomon increased in wisdom, he shared this wisdom with the world around him through his writings and through his just judgments. We are familiar with his Proverbs and his poetry, as well as with the story of the two mothers fighting over the same child. Solomon’s wisdom, so long as he pursued it and shared it rightly, was all to the glory and honor of God. However, his motivations changed.

The queen of Sheba had heard of the great wisdom of the king of Israel. She desired to confirm the stories as well as experience it herself.

And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.” (1 Kings 10:6-9, KJV).

As Solomon pursued wisdom and shared it, he glorified God, and this led to the pagan queen of Sheba glorifying God herself. She also blessed Solomon with gifts: “And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.” (1 Kings 10:10, KJV).

The chapter goes on to tell the reader about all of the gold and horses that Solomon accumulated. Following hard on the heels of the Sheba story, the reader sees that his wealth (gold and silver) and power (military power pictured by the accumulation of horses) is the result of his wisdom.

There is, however, an unfortunate chapter break at this point. 1 Kings 10 ends describing how wise, wealthy, and powerful Solomon was. Chapter 11 begins by describing Solomon’s accumulation of wives. Solomon’s accumulation of wives was detrimental: “…and his wives turned away his heart.” (1 Kings 11:3, KJV) I say the chapter break is unfortunate because one might understand this to mean that only the accumulation of wives was the problem, when, actually, his accumulation of gold and horses were problematic as well.

Solomon violated the three laws of the king found in Deuteronomy 17:14-17. The king shall not accumulate much gold, many horses (especially from Egypt, where Solomon was getting his horses), or many wives. Solomon’s pursuit of wisdom became the pursuit of wealth, women, and power. This pursuit turned his heart away from God.

We, of course, can be guilty of the same motivation in almost any area of our own lives. Education, however, is especially dangerous for us. To pursue education for credits, degrees, higher pay, a powerful career, or other worldly desires is akin to Solomon’s use of wisdom for women, wealth, and power.

We must, on the other hand, pursue wisdom for the sake of wisdom in our educational endeavors. And in pursuing that wisdom, we glorify God. And in glorifying God, the cares of this world will be met. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the cares of this world will be added unto you (my paraphrase). Seek first wisdom and the glorifying of God through it, and our physical needs will be provided.

Seeking the wrong ends harms us in our decision-making and in our relationships. Not only did Solomon begin pursuing wealth, women, and power rather than the glory of God, but it resulted in his heart turning away from the true God. Moreover, remember that the queen of Sheba expressed wonder at how happy his people and his servants were? This did not continue. At Solomon’s death, the people begged his son, Rehoboam, to reduce the tax burden that Solomon had placed upon them. They were unhappy and Rehoboam’s lack of wisdom in leading the people led to the secession of the northern Kingdom.

As we pursue our own advantages, we express a love primarily for self, and this self-love impacts our ability to rightly love God and our neighbor. As we pursue God, we express a love primarily for Him, and this love of God leads us to rightly loving our neighbors and ourselves.

CiRCE Staff

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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Powerfully true. Thank you, Matt, for pulling in all the elements to make this clear & eloquent.


Great post. You’ve made me think about a lot of things.

Did David do the same thing? Did he seek the goods instead of the Good one? What was his motivation?

I like how you quoted the Seek ye first the Kingdom and all will be added scripture.

It’s not bad to have goods, unless it’s where our hearts dwell, in the pleasures of the goods; then we would never be satisfied.

I see how this relates to Education. And even Idea seeking… it is so wonderful to perceive God’s eternal truths; there is so much pleasure in it… but if we seek the pleasures of these ideas over He who is Truth, we will never be satisfied.

Plus there’s the bonus of looking cool with the cool ideas, which is always cool. Knowing ideas is cool.

Yesterday I was thinking about honor. There’s a lot of talk going around about “seeking honor from men” and how it’s wrong.

I don’t think seeking honor from men is wrong.

Your writing made me think that seeking honor from men is like seeking goods from the world. We will never be satisfied it that’s our goal.

But that doesn’t mean receiving honor from men is bad. Just like receiving goods isn’t bad.

I don’t think wanting goods is bad and neither is wanting honor from men.

It’s not bad to want honor (the “well-done”) from man.
It’s not bad to want honor (the “well-done”) from my teacher.
It’s not bad to want honor (the “well-done”) from my pastor.
It’s not bad to want honor (the “well-done”) from my dad.

It’s only bad when I want honor from those men MORE than wanting it from God.

Am I thinking about this correctly? Isn’t this the ordering of affections thing?

And I think this relates to what you are saying in this post.

Solomon wanted the goods of the world more than honor from God.

Our hearts should long for the “well-done” from God most. We should want to please him most. Because we love him most.

... “Whose honor you seek says everything about you”

This is one of the reasons we pursue education, so that we might become virtuous, so that we might glorify God because we have become virtuous. The only way I can represent his eternal ideas to the world is if I become virtuous.

And because I love him, I seek to please Him. If I truly love God I will seek to please Him. And I want to know that I’ve pleased Him. That’s not bad. It's God's assessment.

God is just so the “well-done” he might give me will follow; that is, if I have pleased him.

It seems to me that God gives the “well-done” out of justice not mercy… but that means that I could have really done a good thing. Do you think it possible?

Anyway, this is a huge side-trip, but your post made me think these thoughts so I wanted to share them. And ask you if I am thinking of the ordering of affections thing in the right way.

And it all relates back to education.

This is why we should expect our students to want honor from us as teachers, who are men. And this is why we should give honor. It is a good.

And students who want honor from men don’t necessarily want it less from God.

Actually, I think it is weird when students don't want to be honored by their teachers; if they don't want to please them, they don't respect them. Am I wrong?

Sorry if I made my comments about honor, but I hope you see how I'm seeing honor as one of the goods of the world. And Kings love to receive honor. And that got me thinking. It seems like the only one able to honor a King is God, because of his placement on top.

So maybe David did want the goods and the Good One, and he wanted the Good One more?