“Experience is expensive and a wise person buys it at a thrift store”.
I’ve heard it said in various ways through the years but it’s so true: wisdom learns from the mistakes of others. This rationale is lost on the hard-headed who feel it is necessary to learn on their own, apart from the advice of their elders or people who have made similar choices and experienced a negative outcome.
As my 44th year comes to an end, I have been reflecting somewhat over the last couple of days. I’ve been thinking through my life, wondering about choices I’ve made and certainly thoughtful over the mistakes. I have been amazed at my own rebellion and stupidity, all-the-while amazed to a greater degree by God’s grace and love for me.
During the course of the last couple hours, I have been thinking through some of Solomon’s life and actually been shocked even more by the final results of the “wisest” man on the planet. How is it that someone so wise can lose so much? How is it that he who had people coming to him for advice on how to live, failed to live out his fullest potential? I’ve been thinking through what I could learn from Solomon as I enter into a new year. Here are a couple of my observations.
Solomon asked for wisdom and God gave it to him. But using that wisdom was completely up to Solomon. In all of his years as the wisest man ever, Solomon goes down as one of the dumbest in my opinion. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just saying that wisdom doesn’t guarantee anything. When it all comes down, it’s not what you know that matters but how you use what you know.Solomon had influence over countless thousands, all of whom were in awe of his incalculable wisdom yet he failed to lead the one whose life mattered most: his own.
Disregarding some of his own possible counsel would not be the greatest of his faults, however. Solomon defiantly disobeyed God and truly revealed for us all that wisdom doesn’t make one smart. Spiritual wisdom means nothing apart from practical application. This was Solomon and he failed to realize God’s Word and commands were more important than his own perspective and opinions. Possessing wisdom means nothing if you are not practicing wisdom.
The Lord very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command.1 Kings 11:9-10
A second thing pops out at me from the verse above: God appeared to Solomon TWICE! One would think that if God gave us wisdom, the ability to know, perceive and follow our intuition with almost complete accuracy and THEN if He chose to appear to us ONCE, that would be sufficient for a lifetime on making good choices. Solomon doesn’t just get all that but he gets the LORD appearing to him TWICE! Now tell me…how smart is Solomon?
It’s not that Solomon wasn’t wise. He was! It’s that he failed to “listen” to the wisdom. He didn’t heed the creed. For whatever reasons, Solomon took matters into his own hands and this lead him down a very lonely and empty path. The wisest man, and perhaps wealthiest man, was also one of the most woeful men to ever live. The lesson here is that a great beginning, with everything going for you is not enough to secure a great finish. Wisdom is a daily discipline. It’s a daily walk. It’s a daily practice. Regardless of how “wise” one may be, failure to heed the advice and or commandments and “appearing” of God in our lives is flat out foolish!
So how can we thrive on this thrift store experience? Here are three tags to pop:
1) Know God’s Word. God has made very many things ostensibly clear. Just as with Solomon, He has told us certain things that we need to heed. Just “knowing” what God says is not enough. True wisdom acts. If you don’t want to pay a high price with your life, know what God says.
2) Listen to what God says. God “appeared” to Solomon TWICE. God appears to us in various ways and often more than twice. We have no excuse in failing to do what God wants us to do. Pay attention to the things God says to you through preaching, teaching and even in your moments of silence. Paying attention may seem costly but it’s cheaper than not. Shop at the thrift store of wisdom.
3) Watch the lives of others. Don’t be hard-headed or hard-hearted. Just because someone else makes a mistake doesn’t mean you should. The only reason we feel this way is because we believe that we will either not get caught or not have consequences. Don’t buy into these fallacies. Even if no one else ever knows, God does. And even if the consequences are not visibly seen, our souls suffer when we don’t operate out of wisdom. Learn from other’s mistakes; it’s the cheapest way to learn.