Living wisely isn’t just for Gandalf

Today’s verse is Titus 2:2.

2 Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

This is a good verse and very true, but I’m not an old man. So I kept reading to verse 3:

3 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good.

But I’m not an old woman either. By this point I realized that this is one of those passages that is directed specifically at certain people and I just needed to keep reading and I’d find the one that applied to me. I found it in verses 4-5:

4 These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5 to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

So, then, just for grins, I wanted to see what he had to say to the young men, which I found in verse 6.

 6 In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.

Okay. Do you see a pattern here? Live wisely. Live wisely. Live wisely. The old women are specifically told to live wisely, but they’re instructed to teach the young women to live wisely, which means it’s something they need to do anyway.

What does it mean to live a life of wisdom? What does it mean to make the wise choice? What is wisdom anyway? It’s one of those crazy virtues people associate with old men and long beards. Like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings or the old knight from the temple in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (“You have chosen wisely!”)., my old standby for looking up the definitions of words, says that wisdom is: “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”

Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and deciding to do it. Even a secular definition of wisdom can’t be separated from truth and justice. Even an online dictionary realizes that there’s a difference between just knowing something and being wise.

I always use William Cowper’s poem, “The Difference between Knowledge and Wisdom,” whenever I’m talking about wisdom because it’s such an amazing example of what it really means to be wise.

Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft times no connection. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,
The mere materials, with which wisdom builds,
Till smoothed and squared and filled to its place,
Does not encumber whom it seems to enrich.
Knowledge is proud, that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble, that he knows no more.

–William Cowper

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about where wisdom comes from because I’ve beaten that horse to death. (Whoever picks the verses of the day at must have decided to do a week about teaching.) But what really touched me about the verses this morning is the fact that no matter what age we are, we’re supposed to live with wisdom.

Granted, it’s not the first instruction for everyone. The old men are to exercise self-control. Old women are to live in a way that honors God, like not drinking heavily. Young women need to learn first to love their husbands and children. And it’s the young men who are instructed first (and only) to live wisely. But if you think about it, all of those things are a part of living wisely anyway.

Wisdom is one of those things you can’t get through life without, and it’s one of those virtues that you can’t get enough of. Solomon had his choice of riches, fame or wisdom, and he asked God for wisdom and in return was given riches and fame (and then summarily screwed up his life, but that’s another story). You can’t ever get too much wisdom. It’s not like knowledge, where I do believe you can get so much education and training that you start to look at yourself like you’re an accomplished person because you have an alphabet of letters after your name. But that’s knowledge. Not wisdom.

We all need wisdom. And we all need to live wisely. And the only place anyone is going to get wisdom is from Scripture, which also happens to be a good source for knowledge too.

Psalm 111:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!”

Want to be wise? Want to live wisely? Learn Scripture. Because the Bible will tell you what is true and right and God will help you have the strength to do what is true and right. And it doesn’t matter if you’re as old as Gandalf the Gray or as young as Junie B. Jones, you’ll live a wise life.

And because I already referenced most of Titus 2, I’m going to end with verses 12-13 on this Friday of the first week of September 2011.

We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.