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1 Kings 3:3-15, Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

Saturday, October 28

Wisdom

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

Ok, follow me on this. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom to rule God's people well. It took a great deal of wisdom and maturity for Solomon to recognize that that is what he needed above all else. So, which came first -- the wisdom of Solomon to ask for wisdom, or the wisdom God gave Solomon because he asked for it?

If you grew up in the church, this is a story you're likely quite familiar with. And it comes with a moral... it's better to ask for selfless things like wisdom than to ask for selfish things like riches or to rule over one's enemies. So be a selfless Solomon. 

If you follow this blog, you may have noticed I'm not big on turning God's stories into morality plays. It's trite and it diminished the richness of the stories. The heroes aren't all saints, and the enemies aren't all villains. Nobody's that black and white. And behaving admirably is a learned skill. It takes practice, maturity, and life experience.

Once I had a parishioner who had brought her teenage grandson to worship. He wasn't a regular in worship, so the whole thing was a little foreign to him. She gave him $5 to put in the offering plate. After worship, she asked him if he had put the money in with gratitude or with reluctance. He said he was reluctant, that he would rather have kept the $5. She then told him that if he had said he was grateful, she would have given him $5 to keep for himself. But since he put it in reluctantly and without gratitude, she didn't give him anything.

Here's what he learned. It's better to give the right answer than to tell the truth. And giving money to the church is a test. That's why I don't like morality lessons. They're rarely accurate in what they are trying to teach. They model impossible standards that we can never live up to. And they put us on the defensive rather than really teaching us the tenets of faithful living.

I'd much rather lift up Solomon's story as a win for God's people. Sometimes Solomon threw up a loss, like when he worshiped the idols and gods of his many foreign wives. But sometimes he got it right. That's real life. Sometimes we get a win. Sometimes we fail. Life is a practice. Behaving well takes time, practice, and experience. Becoming as good as we try to behave takes even more maturity and wisdom. It's a journey, but one well worth taking.

Narrative Lectionary Text: 1 Kings 3:3-15

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.” Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem where he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. He offered up burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, and provided a feast for all his servants.