What Have We Learned?

Here is my post for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.

What is it about wisdom that Paul would encourage the Ephesians to live wisely (1) and cause Solomon to ask God to grant him wisdom (2)?Could it be that through wisdom things such as wealth, power and understanding are better achieved?

What is wisdom?Wisdom can mean many things, ranging from the technical skills of artisans (3) to the art of simple government (4).  It also designates cleverness (5), especially the practical skill of coping with life (6) and the pursuit of a lifestyle of proper ethical conduct (7).  Wisdom is also seen as belonging properly to God (8), associated with creation (9), and even identified with the Torah or Law (10).

The origins of Israelite wisdom are presumed to lie in the oral and written insights of the family and clan and also the wise men who taught in schools.The teaching of wisdom in these ancient schools probably focused on the transmittance of lessons of life so that students could learn to cope with life.The teaching inculcated certain goals, such as self-control, honesty, and diligence.If one followed the counsel of wise men, wisdom brought life.But failure to follow such counsel brought the opposite of wisdom, folly, and with folly came destruction.

Wisdom was a very serious concern for Paul because he contrasted the world’s view of wisdom with the wisdom of the Cross.As he pointed out to the Corinthians, the wisdom of the Cross is seen as folly when viewed with the wisdom of the world.

When we speak of wise men (not necessarily the wise men who visited Jesus at his birth) we find them in three areas: the tribe, the court, and the schools.In each case, the wisdom shared was generally practical, concerned with knowledge about the principles governing the world and the life of the individual.Wisdom was based on reason rather than revelation.But it was reason enlightened by piety, for “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (11) Schools were developed so that transmittance of wisdom could be accomplished. (12)

So why are we so afraid of wisdom today?Is it because it is not so easily gained?Is it because it takes time and effort on our part?Is it because it takes us places we may not necessarily want to go?Why, when faced with the unknown, why do we often respond in fear or with ridicule or contempt?When faced with something unknown, why do we erect barriers that keep the unknown away?

Are we not like those who saw Jesus perform miracles and think that they were the actions of some sort of magician or sorcerer?

Wisdom requires time and effort; wisdom only grows.It is a process that must be encouraged with situations that focus on growth.The Book of Ecclesiastes, said to have been written by Solomon, focuses much on wisdom.It speaks of the process by which wisdom is discerned and developed.

We certainly don’t respect wisdom.Wisdom comes through education but we certainly don’t take care of our educational systems.Our schools are chronically underfunded and many localities refuse to pass bond issues that would support education.There may be some justification for refusing to support local school systems, especially when a proportionally larger amount of money is spent within the administrative units than is spent in the classroom.

But in a world where technology so dominates our lives, why are our schools not equipped to teach and use the technology?I can recall a situation where a school system was able to purchase a large quantity of computers to be placed in every classroom in the elementary school.But when hot weather came and the air conditioners were turned on, there was not sufficient electrical power to run the computers.Though the community had made the decision to update the technology used in the classroom, they failed to upgrade the electrical circuits.As a result, certain choices had to be made; choices which adversely affected the children in the classroom.

We may think that our children are computer savvy but when advertisements for computers speak in terms of using computers to show movies or store music, are our children really that muchbetter off?From my view, college students still have trouble writing coherent sentences and have a difficult time recognizing that statements that they liberally lift off the Internet are false or incomplete.Wisdom comes from the proper use of the process.

The disrespect for education and wisdom is easily seen in our society’s values.We willing pay large sums of money so that movie stars and professional athletes can earn millions of dollars.Yet those who taught these individuals the skills that they use earn only a fraction of that amount.

Is the content of today’s popular television shows the reflection of a highly educated populace?Or is it simply “mind candy” for the masses?Why does society deem news about which celebrity married which celebrity or who is pregnant and who is not more important than understanding the cause of the global conflicts we seem to be embroiled in?Why does it seem that most people have no clue what other cultures believe?

Why is it that most of today’s main stream media not only tell us the news but tell us what to think about the news?Could it be that we do not want to be forced to think about what is going on?Could it be that we willingly seek war today because we have forgotten that war is bloody and messy?Could it be that we do not understand what poverty is because we are so focused on the rich and famous?

Oh, we have tried to fix our educational processes.Congress passed a law called the “No Child Left Behind” Act.It was supposed to fix what was wrong with the educational system.But many states are dropping out of the program because Congress offered no funding and because it does not work.

How can it work when it teaches for the moment?No provision that I am aware of in this Act encourages thinking or the application of knowledge.All it does is require that we teach our students to take tests at the end of the school year.The scores on this test determine the effectiveness of the teaching process.But, if we were to test the students six months later, we would probably see significant drops in the test scores because material studied for the moment is quickly forgotten.

Those who saw Jesus perform the many miracles or heard Him speak in terms of flesh and blood were confused.Many were not willing to see alternatives; they only saw Joseph the carpenter’s son, not the Son of God, the one and true Messiah.They were not willing to open their hearts and minds to the message of the Gospel; they were not willing to change their thought process. (13)

If we do not open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, then the wisdom that is Jesus Christ will not be a part of our lives.We will be stuck as those in the Gospel reading, unable to comprehend the power of the Gospel and unable to discern the basis for our failures in this world.

We need to remember that John and Charles Wesley felt that they were more than prepared to lead a new movement when they first came to America some 250 years ago.Yet, they left as failures because their minds were closed.

Only when the Holy Spirit came into their lives was their understanding complete.Only when the Holy Spirit was a part of their lives did they understand what they could do.Only when the Holy Spirit came into their lives were they able to make the Methodist Revival the transforming ministry that it became.

When we see the work of God through Christ, how do we respond?Do we ridicule it?Do we condemn it?Do we ignore it?Or do we understand that with the Holy Spirit, it is true that all things are possible?

Solomon asked for wisdom because he understood that nothing else could be gained without it.Paul encouraged the Ephesians to live wisely because wisdom gives a clearer view of the world.

Like Solomon, we need wisdom in our lives.Like the Ephesians, we need to live more wisely.Like Solomon and Paul, the wisdom will come when we open our hearts and our minds and allow the Holy Spirit into our lives.And when we let the Holy Spirit into our lives, we will be surprised by what we have learned.



Ephesians 5: 15 – 20

(2) 1 Kings 2: 10 – 12, 3: 3 – 14

(3) Exodus 36: 8

(4) 1 Kings 3: 12, 28

(5) 2 Samuel 14: 2

(6) Proverbs 1; 5; 11; 14

(7) Proverbs 2: 9- 11 and throughout

(8) Job 28

(9) Proverbs 8; 22 – 31

(10) Ecclesiasticus 24: 23

(11) Proverbs 9: 10

(12) The opening paragraphs were adapted from Harper’s Bible Dictionary

(13) John 6: 51 – 58

6 thoughts on “What Have We Learned?

  1. Tony, I wanted to let you know that I took time to read your blog today and find it pleasant to read. I agree that wisdom is associated with education, but many problems stem from a deeper endimic of loss of community. Schools get blamed for much, but what help are the parents. I think if we could turn of the TV a little more and spend time talking to our neighbors next door or going to community events, society might change a little. But alas, the lowest common denominator is so low and so mindless, we appear forever mired in mediocrity and mindlessness. Thanks for the thoughts and keep up the good work!

  2. Oh, my. You have to be the Tony Mitchell from Northeast Mo. State U. and Wesley in the 60s and maybe early 70s!!!

    Am I right?

    If you are I will write you lots more.

    Helen Finley and also John—and now a 24 year old Jennifer that is was a Peer Minister at Wesley and now a Duke Divinity Student.

  3. The search for wisdom is like the search for ultimate truth. They are both hard, if not impossible to find and they have been the topic of many discussions throughout the ages. The more humans seek for wisdom the more they will get to becoming better persons.

  4. You sure do not look the same—but none of us do—my hair is all gray.

    I was just looking at the names on the Honey and Locust site and saw Tony Mitchell and clicked on the name and got to your site.

    Then I saw the Eric Schmidt had replied to your message. He came to Wesley as the director while Jennifer was still a Peer Minister and living in the Wesley House.
    She just saw him last week while she was in Kirksville visiting.

    We live in Jefferson City, MO and Jennifer went to Truman from 2001-05.

    I just got back from taking her to St. Louis airport to go back to Durham. She has a B. A. in Religion/Philosophy from Truman and is working on her Masters of Divinity from Duke—2008 to be an Ordained Deacon in Christian Education.

    She is the only one we had.

    John is the librarian for Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO and is also one of the 2 archivist for the Missouri Methodist Conference.

    I am a retired business teacher—so it is me and the 2 cats during the day.


  5. Helen,
    Nice to hear from you. When you get a chance, send me an e-mail (You can use the e-mail button on my profile page or pick up the address from the front page of the blog).

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