What is wisdom?

She (wisdom) is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.                  

Proverbs 3:18 

Dear members and friends,  

As 2024 began, I have been meditating on wisdom. The English word “wisdom” is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment” or “the quality of being wise.” According to the English definition, it seems that wisdom could be obtained by having experiences and knowledge, which could equip a person with good judgment. However, in Proverbs, we read that “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.” According to the Bible, people become wise not just by having experiences and knowledge, but by having faith in God. In the biblical context, having faith in God means cultivating humility, mercy, and fairness. These qualities might give people the ability to accept their life as it is and cultivate their heart to make the best out of whatever happens. As a result, they live a life that is filled with contentment, hope, and joy.  

For your meditational reflection on wisdom, I would like to share a story from Zhuangzi Speaks:

There was once a very peculiar man named Zhi Lishu whose body was terribly deformed. His head was bent down below his navel, his shoulders reached up above the top of his head, his hair stuck out in all directions, his vital organs were all out of place, and his stomach hung down between his thighs.

By helping people with their laundry, Zhi Lishu could make enough money to get by. And by telling fortunes, he could support a dozen people. During times of war when people were conscripted by force, Zhi Lishu sauntered down the street knowing that nobody would want him. During times of famine when the government gave out free grain, Zhi Lishu would be first in line due to his disability.

For most if not all of us, our physical and emotional nature, what we can and cannot do, and how much we can achieve is already decided at our birth. According to the Human Genome Project, about 60% is innately determined. While it may be noble and courageous to attempt to change or improve one’s innate condition and abilities, the truth is that God endowed us with an ability to cultivate happiness and joy within the conditions and abilities with which we are born and living! Which is more wise: to spend a lot of time, effort, and energy trying to change something that is nearly impossible to change, or to accept what is given to us and cultivate a way to be content, happy, and joyful? Zhi Lishu in the story seems like the one who was wise enough to find a way to be content and happy with who he was and how he was born. Being wise is not about being smarter than others, but about finding a way to be happy wherever and however one might be.

My brothers and sisters in God, let us take a moment for prayer. Find a time and place that is quiet and let us connect to God who is innately present within our hearts. As the love of God flows into our heart, there lies the stream of happiness to tap into, if we are willing to open the door.      

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee