September 23, 2012
This acrostic poem appears at the end of Proverbs. I don’t know why our bishops would include it unless they wanted to give people like me a chance to object. Alas, I fear their motives were other. The reading brings to mind a late relative of mine, a woman who shall be nameless: “At our church, we had a women’s group studying women in the Bible. We decided that the Bible says women should be subordinate to men, and we like it that way.” This is not my idea of wisdom.
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Wisdom is here treated as a grace from God, perhaps an inspiration. James doesn’t mean wisdom in the common sense of the word today, the ability to observe closely and predict an outcome of what is observed. He means by “wisdom” a good heart, sympathy, generosity, selflessness, what Laurence Sterne called the softer passions. Sterne thought they were part of human nature, but had to be nurtured so as to prevail over the equally natural passions of greed and selfishness. But James is not concerned with faculty psychology. For him goodness is God-given. Ask and you will receive both wisdom and its rewards.